PictureSyrian Rebel forces training

Are American taxpayers funding the persecution of Christians and murder of civilians in war-torn nations?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 25th, 2013)

Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines earlier this month when he called on world leaders to unite in fighting anti-Christian persecution. Putin has made significant efforts in recent days to underscore the importance of Christian virtues to the Russian people, and his latest statement condemned the violence that has been perpetrated against Christian people in the Middle East and in North Africa.

President Obama didn’t respond in agreement. Indeed, shortly afterwards, he cancelled a scheduled summit with the Russian President. However, Putin’s statement resonated deeply with many Americans who have been working to call attention to the plight of Christian minorities worldwide.

The trouble is that, far from doing our part to end these atrocities, extant American foreign policy seems calculated to exacerbate them. Rather than making an end of the bloodshed, our influence has been making things worse.

Last week, Syrian rebels opened fire on a Christian village during the celebration of a feast day and killed 9 Christian villagers and 2 others. Women and children were among the dead.

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population, know this is no isolated incident. Since the beginning of the conflict between Sunni Muslim rebel forces and Syrian President Bashar Assad, thousands of Christians have been forced from their homes or brutally murdered. Several Catholic priests and clerics have been beheaded or gunned down in their churches.

Radical Muslim groups, who back the rebel Free Syria Army, see Christians as supporters of Assad’s regime and enemies of their religious belief system, even though many Christians who have been targeted took no active part in supporting Assad.

Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra warned in July that young, Christian women are bearing the brunt of the civil war, with widespread reports of rape in Christian communities. Of the war’s 100,000 casualties since 2011, as estimated 5,000 have been children under 16. A disproportionate number have been Christian women and girls.

Earlier this week, a disturbing video surfaced, purporting to show the execution of two young boys by Syrian rebel forces. The boys, who were accused of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, are shown blindfolded on their knees beside each other as a masked man hastily reads off what sounds like a list of charges behind them. The video then continues to roll as the boys are riddled with bullets and left lying prostrate and immobile on the ground. Viewer discretion is advised.

In another incident in June, a 14-year old boy in the Northern Syrian city of Aleppo, who was accused of blaspheming the Muslim prophet Muhammad, was flogged and executed by rebel forces. Reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claim the boy was first taken by the rebel gunmen to an unknown location where he was beaten and tortured. He was returned with his body slashed with the marks of a whip and a shirt tied around his head. He was then shot repeatedly in front of a crowd. Grisly photos were released of his bloodied body, a gaping hole all that remains of his nose and mouth.

The Islamists claim that the shockingly violent acts which have been committed by their army are nothing compared with the “genocide,” that has been conducted by Assad’s regime, but it seems the gap is narrowing, as the rebels continue to stack up more and more incidents against themselves. And, obviously, these are only the incidents that have been reported to western news outlets. Who can know what is really going on in the dark recesses of the war-torn nation? 

Of course, the last thing anyone would expect is that a civil, respectable, tolerant, and progressive society would be willing to fund such a malicious, vengeful war, or take any part in providing assistance to either side of such a vicious conflict. You wouldn’t expect America, a nation already trillions of dollars in debt, to be giving $250 million in defensive combat supplies to Islamist rebels who violate Christian girls and torture young boys and shoot them up in front of their parents.

But you would be wrong.

Catholic Franciscan Friar Pierbattista Pizzaballa warned Vatican Radio in June,

“Unfortunately Syria has now become a battleground not only between Syrian forces, but also between Arab countries and the international community. And those paying the price are the poor, the young and the Christians. The international community must put a stop to all this. The world must know that the support of gunmen by the west is helping extremists in killing Syrians.”

Syria isn’t the only place where “Arab Spring” violence has resulted in increased persecution of Christians. Following widespread violence in Egypt this week, CNN reported over 52 churches have been torched and looted by Islamists since Wednesday, along with uncounted Christian homes and businesses.

The unrest began when supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi launched a protest against the military-imposed state of emergency. The protest, which is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, culminated in a “Friday of Rage” yesterday, which left over 600 people dead and over 4,000 injured.

What we’re seeing right now in Egypt is literally a pogrom,” said Middle East expert Eric Stakelbeck, “where Christians are systematically being targeted. Right now there is a bulls-eye on the back of every Christian living in Egypt.”

One lawmaker in DC has come to the conclusion that what is occurring is unacceptable. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a longtime critic of US foreign policy and foreign aid spending, introduced a bill at the end of July to redirect approximately $1.5 billion in foreign aid from Egypt and use it to rebuild US infrastructure. “In our hour of need in our country, why are you sending money to people that hate us?” Paul asked.

His remarks are reminiscent of another speech he made in June, when he called for an end of foreign aid to countries that persecute Christian people.

"It angers me to see my tax dollars supporting regimes that put Christians to death for blasphemy against Islam, countries that put to death Muslims who convert to Christianity, and countries who imprison anyone who marries outside their religion," Paul said in June, at a conference in DC.


"There is a war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide. And your government, or more correctly you, the taxpayer, are funding it."

The bill failed to pass, with only 13 Senators voting in favor of it. Senator John McCain argued that cutting the foreign aid to Egypt would harm Israel, and that other nations would quickly step in to fill the “vacuum” left by the cuts. The ponderous list of things Sen. McCain doesn’t understand just got a lot longer. Added to it is the fact that choosing to support a murderous society for the reason that someone else will be sure to step in and do it if you don’t, is no reason at all.


The web of the world is a great, impenetrable mass of humanity, ideology, corruption, violence and faith. To attempt to summarize in a few short paragraphs the state of the planet is more than a trifle arrogant. Who of us, out of our limited understanding, can say who is responsible for all of the deaths and the decapitations of the past few months in nations seething with sectarian differences, and violent values systems? Who can tell which side is more evil in a conflict where unspeakable atrocities are being perpetrated by both sides?

Thankfully, it is not the place of the American people or elected officials to make these judgments, or to choose which murderous regime to depose, which to support, and which to instate. When our government does step in to make these kinds of calls, one outcome is guaranteed: the American taxpayer comes out of it with blood on his hands. The blood, perhaps, of young children, of uninvolved bystanders, of peaceful Christian families. The American taxpayer doesn’t want that.

When Americans all across the country found themselves in eager agreement with Putin’s call for an end to the persecution of Christian people, did they realize one of the first steps towards achieving that end might be cutting the funding that we give to the persecutors?

It’s time to realize it.

As a closing note, for those that remain unconvinced of the evils of indiscriminate US foreign aid to troubled war zones and terrorist organizations, one final piece of evidence is shrieking loudly, demanding to be heard.

America doesn’t have any money.


 
 
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Putin calls on world leaders to unite to end persecution of Christians, while President Obama condemns Russian defense of traditional marriage, cancels summit with Putin

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on August 10, 2013)

The evangelical Christian community that still identifies Russia with communism, Cold War tensions and the chilling brutality of Stalinism, is in for a big, painful shock this week. The world has changed, and not only is the USA no longer the cheery western beacon of homely virtues, but one of her traditional enemies is standing in to defend the sacredness of the ideals she no longer cherishes.  

While attending a meeting with Orthodox Christian leaders in Moscow last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin vaulted into headlines by making comments urging the international community to take steps towards preserving the rights of Christian people worldwide and preventing the violence that they suffer routinely in dozens of nations around the globe. Putin said he observed “with alarm” that “in many of the world’s regions, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa, inter-confessional tensions are mounting, and the rights of religious minorities are infringed, including Christians and Orthodox Christians.”

Presumably, Putin was referring to the recent violence against Christians that is ongoing in Syria and has occurred in the Sudan during the decades-long Sudanese Civil Wars and the continuing unrest. In Iran, Christian pastors like Saeed Abedini and Youcef Nadarkhani have been undergone beatings and torture in deadly prisons over the past two years, and have been threatened with execution. In a recent interview with CBN, Eritrean torture survivor “Philip” shared graphic stories of his own experience suffering as a kidnapping victim in torture camps in the Sinai desert. "In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians," he said. “I was hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”

These kinds of stories are nothing new. Horrific persecution of Christian people has been widespread since new converts were fed to the lions in the Roman Empire. What is surprising is that these are the kinds of stories that were coming out of Russia not long ago, when atheism was the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and twenty-year-old Ivan Moiseyev was beaten to death in the Red Army.

What’s changed since then? Putin hinted at it when he said the church in Russia had been a “moral compass” to many who were looking for help, hinting at the recent century of misery and struggle that the Russian people have endured. He also acknowledged the role that the church has played in “culture and education,” adding, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland.”  

Why is the Russian leadership suddenly recognizing the priceless value to their nation of the Christian virtues they condemned for so many years? It’s simple. The Russian people have learned the hard way about the cultural devastation and decline that results from the rejection of the happy principles that have bolstered the western world for so many centuries.

Russia is a nation that has tasted of the fruit of the self-destructive anti-ethical policies that so much of the western world has come to label “progressive.”

They already tried dismantling the natural institution of family, and replacing it with state control and regimentation. As a result, they are suffering a demographic crisis, with the highest abortion rate in the world. Russians have more abortions than live births.

They already tried out the scheme of deconstructing the faith of individuals and replacing it with a collectivistic, subservient society where people owe nothing to an eternal, unchanging God, but everything to a transient, ever-evolving state. This didn’t serve as any kind of cultural liberation.

Today, Russia is ravaged by alcoholism, with an annual per capita alcohol consumption of 15.76 litres, one of the highest in the world, and a shockingly low life expectancy. According to a U.N. National Human Development Report, Russian males born in 2006 had a life expectancy of just over 60 years. Russia has a suicide rate of 27.1 per 100,000 people. In 2008, suicide claimed 38,406 lives in Russia. Russia has been repeatedly rated the most corrupt European nation, tied with Iran, Guyana, and Khazakstan.

Russia is also a significant destination and transit country for persons trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation from regional and neighboring countries. A 2006 World Vision report claimed Russia is becoming a new destination for child sex tourism, and estimated 2 to 2.5 percent of Russian sex workers are minors.

With all of these sorry statistics to show for their experiment in statism and rejection of Christian virtues, is it any wonder that Putin is extending an olive branch towards the Russian church and seeking to reinstate what has been lost?

The meeting was held with the leaders of all 15 Orthodox Churches to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the official adoption of Christianity by Prince Vladimir in 988 A.D. Orthodox leaders spoke out against what they consider the growing secularist suppression of Christian freedoms in Western nations like the UK and France, where “gay marriage” has just been instated, and Christian business owners have been threatened with jail time and forced to pay fines for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s chief ecumenical officer, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned of  “secularization in disguise of democratization” and of a “powerful energy today [that] strives to finally break with Christianity, which controlled its totalitarian impulses during 17 centuries.”

“Eventually,”
Hilarion said, “it unconsciously strives to set up an absolute dictatorship that demands total control over each member of society. Don’t we move to it when ‘for the sake of security’ we agree to obligatory electronic passports, dactyloscopy [fingerprint identification] for everyone, and photo cameras occurring everywhere?”

These remarks come as Russia attracts global attention for its law banning homosexual propaganda directed at minors, and continues each year to pay fines to the European Court of Human Rights for prohibiting Gay Pride parades in Moscow.  In June 2012, Moscow courts enacted a hundred-year ban on gay pride parades.

Do Putin’s recent comments signal a Christian transformation of character? Probably not. What they do signal is a fear that grows as Russia slips deeper and deeper into the vicious results of the black hole of creedlessness. And perhaps they signal a growing friendliness towards the virtues of Christian culture.

While Western Europe and the US are slanting slowly towards the neutralization and ultimate rejection of classical and Christian ethics, Russia and Eastern Europe rushed into this chaos of amorality years ago and, it seems, are coming out on the other side a little wiser, a little steadier.

But are they even growing wiser than us?


This week, President Obama announced a planned summit with President Putin had been cancelled, and that US relations with Russia had moved from a "reset" to a "pause."

(First posted at the Washington Times Communities)
 
 
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Russian police officer detains man in bridal gown during gay rights protest in Moscow.

New St. Petersburg law bans homosexual propaganda in public places, US State Department bullies Russia

(Posted by Bryana Joy on March 22, 2012)

Controversy erupted last week when a Russian city adopted a new policy designed to protect young people from exposure to propaganda by homosexual rights groups. On March 7th, St. Petersburg Gov. Georgy Poltavchenko signed into a law a bill that will fine individuals up to $170 and companies up to $17,000 for violating a ban on "public actions aimed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors.” The new St Petersburg law also includes amendments introducing stricter punishments for pedophilia, which is commonly associated with homosexuality.

The Russian Orthodox Church has applauded the recent legislation and is calling for a similar nationwide ban to be enacted.  Dmitry Pershin, head of the Church’s youth council, praised the St Petersburg law for “
helping to protect children from information manipulation by minorities that promote sodomy,” and said that, “the persistence of sexual minorities and their intention to rally near children’s establishments indicate that this regional law is highly needed and should be urgently given federal status,” referring to homosexualist activist Nikolay Alexeyev’s stated intention to organize rallies near children’s establishments to protest the new law.

Naturally, gay rights groups are unhappy and clamoring for redress against the government in St. Petersburg. The activist organization
All Out, which succeeded last year in getting Paypal to shut down blogger Julio Severo’s account and suspend his funds, is crying foul and calling the law a “gag rule” that “muzzles artists, writers, musicians, citizens and visitors.” They have launched a campaign, We Won’t Go There, and are threatening to boycott travel to the Russian city.

Oddly enough, another institution has joined them in expressing disapproval, the State Department. “
Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights,” states the official website for the State Department, quoting Secretary Hillary Clinton. “We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens. We have also consulted with our EU partners on this issue. They share our concerns and are also engaging Russian officials on this. The United States places great importance on combating discrimination against the LGBT community and all minority groups.”

Russia did not take kindly to the US government’s interference. "
We view with bewilderment the American side's attempts to interfere, what's more, publicly, in the lawmaking process," foreign ministry representative for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, told the Interfax news agency, adding that there is “absolutely no discrimination by Russian law in the application of civil, political, social, economic and cultural human rights, including on grounds of sexual orientation.”

Dolgov went on to explain that, “
the legislative initiatives of the regional bodies of authority…are intended to protect minors from the respective propaganda …Of course, the decision took into account the traditional cultural and moral values prevalent in Russian society, considerations of the protection of health and public morality, and the inadmissibility of discrimination through the encouragement of the rights and interests of one social group without proper regard for the rights and interests of others.”

It turns out that Dolgov has been well-informed. As shocking as it may seem to Secretary Clinton, Russians, by and large, don’t
like public displays of homosexuality and many believe homosexual acts to be immoral and unhealthy. A 2010 poll by the independent Levada Center in Moscow found that 74 percent of Russians regard homosexuality as a result of bad moral choices. Is it right for our State Department to pressure the Russian government to go against the will of its people? 

If the Russian government were, in fact, violating human rights, the answer would certainly be yes. However, the bottom line is that while freedom of speech, property rights, the right to a fair trial, freedom from unwarranted violence, freedom from involuntary servitude, etc. are human rights, freedom of sexual expression in public thoroughfares and in the presence of children is not, and categorizing it as such is a trivialization of the real human rights abuses and injustices enacted every day across the globe.


“Keep the government out of the bedroom!” has become a favorite slogan of pro-choice and gay rights activists, who are irritated by what they see as excessive legislation of sexual activity. The Russian government has obliged and has withdrawn from the afore-mentioned bedroom. Now, however, these activists are no longer content with confining their controversies to the bedroom, but continue to insist on dragging them out for public display. The issue is that much of what they wish to flaunt is not at all suitable for public display in the first place.


Are gay rights human rights? Only insofar as they are the same rights afforded to everyone else.

Thus, while the rights of gay people to be given equal protection under law are human rights, their “rights” to put on sexually explicit parades in public places or to indoctrinate children against the wishes of their parents, are not rights at all.


(First posted in Bryana's column over at The Washington Times Communities)

 

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