Showing posts with label Muslim-Christian dialogue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Muslim-Christian dialogue. Show all posts

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bekasi, West Java (Indonesia): dhimmitude or death

Many analysts are warning that the situation in Bekasi, West Java, threatens to deteriorate into religious war similar to that which convulsed Central Sulawesi and Maluku between January 1999 and February 2002. It must be noted though that those conflicts occurred on Indonesia's periphery where the Muslim-Christian demographic is around 50-50. If war/jihad against Christians erupts in Bekasi, which is 98 percent Muslim and only 15km east of Jakarta in densely populated West Java, it will be a totally different scenario altogether. This is a most serious situation. Tensions are rising and preparations are in motion. All it awaits is a trigger.

As noted in my post of 30 June 2010, Fitna and Apostaphobia in Bekasi, on Sunday 27 June Islamic fundamentalist leaders at the Bekasi Islamic Congress demanded the city administration of Bekasi, West Java, enact Sharia (Islamic) laws so as to 'limit' apostasy. They also proposed that every mosque in Bekasi establish its own paramilitary unit ('laskar') that can be quickly mobilised for war against Christians if "Christianisation" is not halted in line with Muslim demands.

Like the Laskar Jihad before it, the Islamic Defenders Front reportedly has TNI (Indonesian military) support.

On Monday 28 June, militants belonging to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) raided a restaurant in Banyuwangi, East Java, where legislators were running a health bill familiarisation program. FPI secretary general, Awit Mashuri, defended the FPI's actions, telling TVOne that the FPI is not a law unto itself and always "coordinates" with state apparatus before taking any action. According to Awit, on this occasion the FPI's intelligence came from a "district military intelligence unit". The FPI claimed the raid was necessary to destroy an illegal meeting of "Communists".

See: FPI admits military’s role in Bayuwangi raid
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Friday 2 July 2010.

Outraged Indonesian legislators called for the FPI to be banned. However, others simply recommended rule of law, noting that if the FPI is banned other groups will just emerge in its place. The legislators demanded that police, with strong support from the president, must act decisively to apprehend all lawbreakers. Furthermore, full investigations must be conducted in the event of any militia-related attacks, and the investigations must be kept open to the public. They also recommended that any politicians or businessmen found orchestrating these attacks must face punishment.

This issue, of whether or not the government is prepared to enforce the law in the face of rising Islamic fundamentalism, belligerence and "talibanisation", is the watershed issue on which the future of Indonesia balances.

According to Eva Kusuma Sundari, an Indonesian MP with the Democratic Party of Struggle, "There is information saying the FPI is a pet of the TNI [Indonesian military], and the police hesitate to deal face-to-face with the military, because police consider the armed forces their elder brother"' Of course the Defence Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. I Wayan Midhio denied the allegation, maintaining that all TNI were "professional soldiers who obey the law".

Eva Kusuma Sundari has also learned that the FPI was registered and listed as a "mass organisation" in 2006 under Home Ministry Decree No. 69/ D111.3/VIII/2006, so it cannot be banned without an appeal to the Supreme Court. "This means the ministry also has blood on their hands," she said.

See: Legislator: FPI has the military backing
By Hans David Tampubolon and Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, 30 June 2010

Muslim militias prepare for war

Associated Press reports that on Saturday 3 July some 100 jihadist recruits turned out for an inaugural military training exercise in an open field in Bekasi. "We're doing this because we want to strike fear in the hearts of Christians who behave in such a way," said Murhali Barda, who heads the local chapter of the Islamic Defenders Front, which pushes for the implementation of Islamic-based laws in Bekasi and other parts of the archipelagic nation. "If they refuse to stop what they're doing, we're ready to fight."

One Bekasi mosque has erected an enormous banner that reads "Death penalty for Andreas Dusly Sanau . . ." and pictures the young local Protestant pastor with his head in a flaming noose.
"The government must protect all citizens from anarchist action as mandated by the constitution," said Priest Andreas Yewangoe, a chairman of the Communion of Indonesian Churches told the Associated Press.

But the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is reluctant to act against the Islamic fundamentalists because it is dependent upon the support of Islamic parties in the parliament. With the Islamic parties holding the balance of power, nobody, especially the ruling party, can afford to be deemed "un-Islamic".

"I really see this as a threat to democracy," said Arbi Sanit, a political analyst analyst at the University of Indonesia. "Being popular is more important to them [politicians] than punishing those who are clearly breaking the law."

Catholic news agency Fides agrees: "Radicals of the FPI ('Front Pembela Islam,' Islamic Defense Front), are exploiting the fact that the weak, corruption-wracked central government is dependent upon Muslim support and fearful of Islamic belligerence."

Fr. Emmanuel Harja, priest of the Diocese of Jakarta and Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Indonesia told Fides: "It's often violent militants who openly encourage hostility against all Christians. We ask the government to stop them and ensure freedom of religion and faith in all religious communities. It's a matter of justice and respect for fundamental rights."

Blaming Protestant "fanatics"

Jesuit Fr. Ignazio Ismartono is the director of the Indonesian Bishops' Crisis Reconciliation Service Conference told Fides: "The Church's line is this: not to react on her own to the provocation by radicals, but to always seek ecumenical fellowship and full harmony and cooperation of other religious leaders, starting with Muslims. . ."

However, according to Fr. Ismartono -- who, in 2007, Fides described as "the vice president of the Bishops' Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and a tireless builder of Muslim-Christian relations" -- the root cause of the problem is "the relationship between Islamic groups and Protestant Christian groups, within their spheres of action and influence. At the basis of it is the question of human relationships and respect for others. Every religious community should not propagate their faith so fanatically. This approach only leads to a reaction of fanaticism in other communities. It's a vicious circle that we must emerge from. Today, the important thing is to let tensions cool down and hope that through common sense, everything can get back on the track of peaceful coexistence."

Fr Ismartono is doubtless trying to distance the Catholic Church from the Protestants with whom the Islamic fundamentalists have taken issue. But what is he saying exactly? This seductive, fine-sounding statement deserves closer scrutiny.

Firstly he is saying that we must accept that religions have established (albeit unspoken and unofficial) "spheres of action and influence". According to Islam, Christians have no right to witness to Muslims, for once a person is officially recognised as Muslim they belong to Islam's sphere of influence and have no automatic right to hear any other truth claim or choose their own religion (i.e. no religious liberty). Meanwhile, the scriptures say: "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV) It appears that the Bishop has adopted the Islamic model.

Concerning Fr Ismartono's implication that Christian should have respect for "others", we can only assume that he asking the Protestants to respect the demands of the apostaphobic dictators of Islam. Of course Christ's ambassadors are motivated by respect. It is this respect, indeed compassionate love, for Indonesia's lost Muslim masses -- many of whom who have worldviews more aligned to Christianity than Islam to start with -- that compels these Protestants to share the gospel of grace despite the risks (2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2).

If Fr Ismartono is going to accuse the Protestants -- who are now threatened with death by jihad -- of "fanatic" propagation of their faith, and blame the crisis on them, then he might need to define "fanatic" and furnish us with some examples as evidence that this "fanaticism" actually exists as a serious problem. I would suggest that Fr Ismartono's definition of a "fanatic" might turn out to be someone who is resisting dhimmitude (subjugation under Islam) and persisting in Christian freedom in the face of Islamic totalitarianism.

Fr Ismartono also implied that the Muslim fanaticism that is threatening to shed Christian blood in Bekasi is only a reaction to Protestant fanaticism with the gospel. The reality however, is that the Islamic fanaticism surfacing in Bekasi is merely part of the global revival of intolerant, jihadist and revolutionary, fundamentalist Islam.

Fr Ismartono needs to explain how then should Christians live? What should Christians do so as to enable "peaceful coexistence"? What should Christians do so as to avoid invoking Islamic fanaticism against the church?

Mind you, the answers might read like a Middle Ages handbook for dhimmitude. And this is the problem with so much Muslim-Christian Dialogue -- it tends to revolve around Christians, responding to unspoken threats of terror, making concessions towards dhimmitude in the hope that the Muslims won't kill them.

But dhimmitude is not the solution.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Apostasy, and the baptism of Madgi Allam

Date: Friday 4 April 2008
Subj: Religious Liberty: the pivotal issue in these pivotal days.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: THE PIVOTAL ISSUE IN THESE PIVOTAL DAYS
-- Apostasy, and the baptism of Madgi Allam


Historically the outcome of pivotal moments in Christian-Muslim relations have been determined by military might: the Arab Muslim conquest of the Byzantine Jerusalem (AD 638); the Arab Muslim conquest of Byzantine Heliopolis, Egypt (AD 640); the Ottoman Muslim conquest of Byzantine Serbian Kosovo (1389); the Ottoman Muslim capture of the capital of Byzantium, Constantinople (1453); the European victory over the Ottomans in the Battle of Vienna (1683); the Serb reconquest of Kosovo (1913); the Allied victory over the Ottomans in WW1 (1919); the Allied victory over the Muslim-Nazi Alliance in WW2 (1945); the NATO-enabled Muslim re-reconquest of Kosovo (1998-2008) . These battles and many others like them demonstrated who was ascendant and determined who was in control.

For several decades now the West has been advancing global openness through its revolution in communication and information technologies. But openness poses an existential threat to repressive dictatorships, corrupt systems and false religions. Now, in a fight for their survival, repressive dictatorships, corrupt systems and false religions are seeking to protect themselves by rolling back liberties and erecting bulwarks: repressing information and punishing dissent.

Because Islam is a global as distinct from a local phenomenon, the apostaphobic dictators of Islam are of necessity forced to pursue not only a revival of repressive, punitive Sharia in Muslim countries, but the extension of Sharia beyond the Muslim world and into the international arena through the Islamisation of human rights and laws. To this end, they use the threat of "uncontrollable" Islamic violence as leverage. (See LINK 1)

Today we are again at a pivotal moment in Christian-Muslim and Western-Muslim relations. However this time the outcome is not going to be determined by military might, but on the strength of moral and ideological convictions. Unfortunately, that is exactly why the West is in danger, for while Islam is weak militarily it is strong on conviction, the West is strong militarily but weak on conviction. The West will either buckle, surrender and submit, handing Islam the ascendancy, or it will brace itself and stand firm for what it believes (if in fact it can remember what that is).

By his very public Easter baptism of the high profile Egypt-born Italian journalist and Muslim convert to Catholicism, Magdi Allam, Pope Benedict has made a decisive and very courageous statement in defence of religious liberty, specifically a Muslim's right to convert.

Meanwhile back in Egypt, as the Great Apostasy Debate heats up, the Supreme Constitutional Court has been asked to rule on whether civil laws permitting religious freedom violate Article 2 of the Constitution which specifies that Islam is the religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia). See report by Compass Direct:
"Egypt: Ex-Muslims Blocked from Declaring Conversion", 26 March 2008.

THE BAPTISM OF MAGDI ALLAM

 Magdi Allam is the deputy director of the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. As a professing but nominal Muslim, Allam wrote many pieces that were critical of Islam and supportive of Israel. Because of this, Allam has received death threats and had fatwas issued against him, requiring him to live under police protection for the past five years.

The terrorism he has witnessed and the persecution he has suffered drove him to re-examine Islam and to reassess Christianity, especially after Pope Benedict's September 2006 address at Regensburg, which highlighted the unreasonableness of violence in religion.

Magdi Allam testifies: "Thus, I finally saw the light, by divine grace -- the healthy fruit of a long, matured gestation, lived in suffering and joy, together with intimate reflection and conscious and manifest expression . . . The miracle of Christ's resurrection reverberated through my soul, liberating it from the darkness . . . " (For Magdi Allam's testimony, see LINK 2)

Magdi Allam was baptised by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's on Easter Saturday during the Easter vigil. (LINK 3)

For PICTURES (with Italian text):
La conversione di Magdi Allam fa il giro del mondo.
23 Marzo 2008

Numerous Islamic scholars immediately condemned the event. Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan, criticised what he called "the Vatican's deliberate and provocative act of baptising Allam on such a special occasion and in such a spectacular way. It is sad," said Nayed, "that the intimate and personal act of a religious conversion is made into a triumphalist tool for scoring points." Nayed opined that this would negatively impact Christian-Muslim dialogue, and called on the Vatican to "distance itself from Allam's discourse". (LINK 4)

Yahya Pallavicini, a Milanese imam who is the vice-president of Italy's Islamic Religious Community, patronisingly described Allam's baptism "as an 'honest intellectual mistake' that had been committed with the complicity of the Vatican". Pallavicini told Italy's Adnkronos International (AKI) that he was embarrassed by the Pope's "indelicate choice of advisors" -- as if the Pope is without authority or lacking discernment and is vulnerable to the machinations of cunning Islamophobic conspirators! (LINK 5)

AKI reported: "Pallavicini agreed with Nayed in his attack on the baptism saying it put at risk the dialogue between Muslims and Christians." The implication is that Christian-Muslim dialogue can only proceed if the Church agrees to honour Islam's claim to life-long legal ownership of the hearts and minds and bodies of all Muslims irrespective of the individual's basic human right to believe according to his/her reason and conscience. Such a caveat leaves little space for meaningful dialogue.

Like Nayed and Pallavicini, Italy's deputy foreign minister for Middle East affairs, Ugo Intini, also criticised Allam's "very harsh condemnation" of Islam and called on the Vatican "after the emphasis given to Allam's conversion, to distance itself clearly from his statements".

However, the Vatican made it very clear that the Church not only believes in the religious liberty of all people (including Muslims), it also believes in the liberty of its members.

As Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi noted, Magdi Allam "has the right to express his own ideas. They remain his personal opinions without in any way becoming the official expression of the positions of the pope or the Holy See . . . believers are free to maintain their own ideas on a vast range of questions and problems on which legitimate pluralism exists among Christians. Welcoming a new believer into the church clearly does not mean espousing all that person's ideas and opinions, especially on political and social matters." (LINK 6)

"THE RISK OF THIS BAPTISM"

According to Father Lombardi "the pope accepted the risk of this baptism" in order "to affirm the freedom of religious choice which derives from the dignity of the human person".

According to his testimony, which is written in the form of a letter to the director of Corriere della Sera, Paolo Mieli, Magdi Allam accepted the risk of this baptism for the same reason.

"Dear Director, you asked me whether I fear for my life, in the awareness that conversion to Christianity will certainly procure for me yet another, and much more grave, death sentence for apostasy. You are perfectly right. I know what I am headed for but I face my destiny with my head held high, standing upright and with the interior solidity of one who has the certainty of his faith. And I will be more so after the courageous and historical gesture of the Pope, who, as soon has he knew of my desire, immediately agreed to personally impart the Christian sacraments of initiation to me. His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytising in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.

"For my part, I say that it is time to put an end to the abuse and the violence of Muslims who do not respect the freedom of religious choice. In Italy there are thousands of converts to Islam who live their new faith in peace. But there are also thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity who are forced to hide their faith out of fear of being assassinated by Islamic extremists who lurk among us. By one of those 'fortuitous events' that evoke the discreet hand of the Lord, the first article that I wrote for the Corriere on Sept. 3, 2003 was entitled 'The new Catacombs of Islamic Converts'. It was an investigation of recent Muslim converts to Christianity in Italy who decry their profound spiritual and human solitude in the face of absconding state institutions that do not protect them and the silence of the Church itself. Well, I hope that the Pope's historical gesture and my testimony will lead to the conviction that the moment has come to leave the darkness of the catacombs and to publicly declare their desire to be fully themselves. If in Italy, in our home, the cradle of Catholicism, we are not prepared to guarantee complete religious freedom to everyone, how can we ever be credible when we denounce the violation of this freedom elsewhere in the world? I pray to God that on this special Easter he give the gift of the resurrection of the spirit to all the faithful in Christ who have until now been subjugated by fear."

THE POWER OF FAITH

Of all the commentary on this event, none has been more powerful or perceptive than that written by "Spengler" of Asia Times on-Line. Spengler's piece entitled "The mustard seed in global strategy" can be found at LINK 7 and is a "must read" piece.

Spengler describes the baptism of Allam as a "revolution in world affairs . . begun in the heart of one man".

He writes: "Osama bin Laden recently accused [Pope] Benedict of plotting a new crusade against Islam, and instead finds something far more threatening: faith the size of a mustard seed that can move mountains . . .

"Magdi Allam presents an existential threat to Muslim life, whereas other prominent dissidents, for example Ayaan Hirsi Ali, offer only an annoyance . . Why would Muslims trade the spiritual vacuum of Islam for the spiritual sewer of Dutch hedonism? The souls of Muslims are in agony. The blandishments of the decadent West offer them nothing but shame and deracination. Magdi Allam agrees with his former co-religionists in repudiating the degraded culture of the modern West, and offers them something quite different: a religion founded upon love."

Spengler is correct when he writes: "If the Church fights for the safety of converts, they will emerge from the nooks and crannies of Muslim communities in Europe."

While governments may waver and even fail, the Church must stand firm in faith irrespective of the cost, and advance according to the word of God: "'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6 ESV).

-- Elizabeth Kendal

LINKS

1) OIC: Eliminating "defamation" of Islam.
By Elizabeth Kendal, 25 March 2008
ALSO
Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008
(Apostasy, Apostaphobia and Postmodernism)

2) Magdi Allam Recounts His Path to Conversion
http://www.zenit.org/rssenglish-22151

3) Pope baptizes prominent Italian Muslim
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer Sat 22 March 2008.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080322/ap_on_re_eu/pope_muslim_convert

4) Scholar denounces Muslim baptism. BBC 26 March 2008
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7313870.stm

5) Italy: Islamist website attacks Vatican baptism. 26 March2008
http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English/Religion/?id=1.0.2008599217
Muslim Scholar Denounces Vatican Baptism
By FRANCES D'EMILIO – 26 march 2008
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jmjHmHDjMG4Qhj3beZWc-IXP2bOQD8VKJV683

6) Vatican: Muslim convert has right to express his own ideas
By Cindy Wooden. 28 March 2008
http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=27354

7) The mustard seed in global strategy
By Spengler, 26 March 2008
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/JC26Aa01.html