Islamic terrorists target and kill more Christians in Nigeria

From AP/ABCNews:

52 Killed in Central Nigeria Raids and Reprisals
By AHMED SAKA Associated Press
JOS, Nigeria July 8, 2012 (AP)

Raids and reprisal attacks have left 52 people dead in Christian villages near a Nigerian city where authorities have struggled to contain religious violence, officials said Sunday. Assailants launched “sophisticated attacks” on several villages near Jos early Saturday, said Mustapha Salisu, spokesman for a special taskforce made up of policemen and soldiers deployed in the area to curb years of violence. “They came in hundreds,” Salisu said. “Some had (police) uniforms and some even had bulletproof vests.” He said the special taskforce fought back for hours and lost two policemen in the battle. Salisu initially said that 37 people were killed including 14 civilians and 21 assailants. However, later in the day, Nigerian Red Cross official Andronicus Adeyemo said aid workers had counted 52 dead and more than 300 displaced people from the attacks. He did not give a breakdown. He said a federal lawmaker and a state lawmaker were ambushed and killed Sunday afternoon on their way to a mass burial for the victims.

[...]

Mark Lipdo, who runs a Christian advocacy group known as the Stefanos Foundation, gave a list of the 13 villages where he got reports of attacks. He said they were all Christian.

[...]

Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people, is largely divided into a mainly Christian south and a predominantly Muslim north. Jos is located in the “middle belt,” at the meeting point of these two regions. Human Rights Watch says at least 1,000 people were killed in communal clashes around Jos in 2010. However, the rise of a northern-based Islamist insurgency known as Boko Haram has added a new dimension to the long-running conflict, fanning religious tensions in this flashpoint area.

[...]

All previous Jos attacks have targeted churches, a deliberate move to trigger more religious violence, many have said. They all sparked reprisals. Sts. Nunilio and Alodia, pray for us.

h/t: WDTPRS

It is easy to forget that religious persecution is still common in some parts of the world. Please remember these newest Christian martyrs their families, and especially their persecutors in your prayers.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Metropolitan Hilarion: The Eucharist and Culture

Recently, his Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Head of the DECR, spoke to Roman Catholic bishops, clergy and laity participating in the 50th International Eucharistic Congress that took place in Dublin, Ireland from 10–17 June 2012. You can find the complete text of the presentation on Dom Mark Daniel Kirby’s blog Vultus Christi. An American, Dom Kirby is the Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland.

In his own introduction to Metropolitan Hilarion’s presentation, Fr Mark writes that in his view “no speaker at the IEC delivered a message more reflective of the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI on the current crisis in faith and culture.” Having not attended I can’t attest to the accuracy of Father’s comparison of Pope Benedict and Metropolitan Hilarion’s thinking. What I can say, however, is that the Metropolitan has accurately diagnosed the spiritual problem we face in America and in his teaching on the centrality of the Eucharist offered us a way past our current situation. If this is the thinking of the current pope as well, then thank God!

I have posted the conclusion of Metropolitan Hilarion’s talk after the break. The subheadings are Fr Mark’s.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory Continue reading

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Light in the Darkness

The National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen has an important column exploring what he calls the “Five myths about anti-Christian persecution.” He offers them to help, as he says, erase the “blind spot…, about anti-Christian persecution.”

Throughout, Allen illustrates his points with examples of Catholic and Protestant Christians who have suffered persecution for the Gospel. If you have a moment, do read the whole article and offer a prayer for those who suffer on behalf of Christ.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory Continue reading

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Are Apple and other corporations censoring Christian ideas?

MAURO PIANTA, TURIN(Vatican Insider).  A report commissioned by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), a U.S. association of Christian communicators, based in Virginia, which claims itself to be “neutral” has revealed that new media censors Christian beliefs. Zenit news agency reported that the study in question, examines attitudes adopted by the world’s main companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter, with regards to Christian religion. The verdict? According to the dossier, “it is evident that Christian ideas and other religious content are being censored by internet communication platforms.”

These are serious accusations for social networks which proclaim themselves as champions of the freedom of expression. The report offers some examples. “In November 2010, Apple revoked its approval of the Manhattan Declaration application.” The reason for this was Christianity’s convictions with regards to marriage, the sacredness of life and religious freedom. One of the authors of the study wrote that “one of the declarations clauses says homosexuality is immoral and this, according to Apple, is offensive.” The same fate was met by the application for Exodus International, a Christian initiative that helps people abandon homosexual life. The report affirmed that “once again, the Cupertino based company declared this was offensive and violated its guidelines.” According to the report’s authors, all this does not tally with the freedom of expression standards established by the Supreme Court’s First Amendment.

Google is no stranger to this either. The search engine offers tools for the benefit of no profit organisations. Free use or discounted rates for these internet tools are not available for churches or religious organisations that choose their staff according to their religious beliefs and sexual orientation. The report also said that requests made by churches to Google to be considered as no profit organisations, were rejected.

The study underlined that the situation is supposed to be brighter on Facebook and Twitter. Here again, however, homosexuality seems to be the pea under the mattress.

The report ended with an appeal in favour of the freedom of expression: do not censor “legitimate” Christian content, it said. The problem remains of where companies which, one must not forget, are privately owned, decide to draw the line between what is legitimate and what is not.

While I sympathize with the frustration expressed in the article, I would be hesitant to describe the content policy of Apple or Google as “censorship.”

First of all, censorship is a governmental actions. What the article is objecting to are the actions of what are after all private corporations. The officers of these companies have the  right, and even the obligation, NOT to disseminate ideas that they consider immoral.  Do I agree with the view of human sexuality that informs their decisions? No, I don’t. I’ve not read the banned content but I’m willing to accept for the sake of argument that it accurately reflects the moral tradition of the Church.

But whether I agree with the decision or not isn’t the point.

The point is that I don’t have the legal or moral right to tell someone else how to use their property. If I don’t like Apple’s policy relative to homosexuality I can (1) not use Apple products or (2) start my own computer company.

What I can’t do is accuse a private corporation or individual of infringing on my freedom of speech because they don’t want to publish ideas with which they disagree.

This isn’t an issue of censorship or a violation of anyone’s Constitutional rights.

It is however a rather thinly veiled attempt by a group to coerce  a corporation to violate its own moral standards. It pains me to say this since I agree with at least one of those groups (those who published the Manhattan Declaration app) that have been banned by different social media companies.

But again, whether I agree with them or not, whether I think they are short sighted or not, Google not extending free services to churches isn’t censorship even if it might be bad business.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

 

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The First Culture War

Now and again, we hear complaints that the Church ought to say out of the “culture wars.” More often then not, I think those who offer this counsel to the Church do so because they aren’t aware of the Church history.  From the beginning, the Church has not only taken sides in the cultural debates of the age, they often instigated such debates.  We see this most clearly in the early Church‘s unapologetic assault of paganism.  To listen to contemporary critics, the fathers of the Church were simply being unChristian in their criticism of paganism.

Without prejudice to divine grace, the Church grew because not only the fathers but also  rank and file Christians pushed back against the surrounding pagan culture. I think  David Monahan is correct. We face now another round of the culture war but now it seems the goal is to replace Christianity “with something not unlike late Roman paganism.”  He writes:

Like us, the [Ancient] Romans were fighting their culture war just as the bureaucracy of the Empire was collapsing under social, demographic and economic pressures they only dimly understood. Today, activists in the West seem to be coming close to their goal of displacing Christianity with something not unlike late Roman paganism: ritual over belief, contradictory doctrines blended happily together, and boundless respect for power of the state. They say it will create a more tolerant culture, even world peace, but we should ask the early Christian martyrs of Rome, or the contemporary Muslim victims of Hindu repression in India, just how tolerant paganism can be.

Will our culture war turn out as sadly for Christians as the first one did for pagans? Probably not, because not all religions are the same. Pagan religion is a collection of opaque rites and fragmented, dream-like narratives, none of which claim to be true, but which act as vehicles for human aspirations to an unknowable, unreachable divine mystery. Christianity, like the Judaism from which it springs, is an act of faith in the God who reaches from across the abyss to personally intervene in concrete moments of human history, revealing something of himself in the act. As such, Christianity implies a personal conviction, and unleashes personal energies in a way that paganism never could. Even if the worst happens and Western Christians are somehow reduced to the second class status they suffer in other parts of the world, they will remain the “creative minority” shaping their world.

You  can read the rest here.

Is Monahan correct in his assessment? I’m interested in what you think.  For my part, I don’t see how we can proclaim the Gospel and avoid participating in the culture wars.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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The Goals and Limits of Politics

Returning to an earlier post (here), what are we to do when as Orthodox Christians we disagree about politics or social policy? Answering this question requires that we first understand, or at least try to understand, why we disagree. To give at least a provisional answer I want to turn to the second lecture at Acton University, “Christianity and the Idea of Limited Government,” given by Michael Miller, a research fellow and the media director at the Acton Institute.

Following Aristotle, Miller argues that understanding our political life requires that we have a correct understanding of the goal of human life. As with the previous lecture by Samuel Gregg, our anthropology—our vision of human life—is key to how we understand life together as citizens.  Seen in this light, we need to ask to what degree, if at all, do disagreements about politics and public policy reflect differences in our understandings in what makes for a life of human flourishing? Continue reading

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The Human Limits of Empirical Research

The Human Limits of Empirical Research

Neuroskeptic has an interesting post on the “decline effect.”  In a nutshell, replication is a key to empirical research in both the natural and social sciences.  In the latter however what we are seeing is that often it is not possible for later researches to replicate the findings of earlier studies published in referred journal.  This leads to, for example, what appears to be the declining effectiveness of a psychiatric medication over time.  While early published studies show the drug to be effective, later studies don’t.

One suggested reason for this is that more often than not the studies that get published (at least initially) are the ones that show positive results.  What the research doesn’t submit or what doesn’t get published are studies without any results.  So, how does this happens and why does this matter?

As for the first

The problem is that there are so many ways to statistically analyze any given body of data that it’s easy to test and retest it until you find a “positive result” – and then publish that, without saying (or only saying in the small print) that your original tests all came out negative. Combine this with selective publication of only the best data, and other scientific sins, and you can pull positive results out the hat of mere random noise.

In other words, intentionally or not, the fix is in.  Contrary to the popular understanding, if empirical research is trustworthy at all, it is only so when it is the fruit of virtuous researchers and reviewers who are truthful about ALL their findings.

So why does this matter? Continue reading

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