The Corporates: Behind the shining glass

October 31, 2013 by admin  
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Behind the shining glass

Behind the shining glass

Whatever might be the definition of the word “corporate” from the business perspective; and whatever economic growth, the government might have been claiming to have achieved through the corporate employments; in fact, the corporate job is taking a huge toll on the young workforce making them intellectually and socially bankrupt and robbing them of everything except for the bloodsucking token money. The corporates remain hell bent on exploiting even the last drop of the blood. Let’s take a detailed account of the devastating havoc it wreaks on the employees. Please bear in mind that when I say corporate, I mean the private company and not any government organization where the employees are more relaxed than at home since it takes them half an hour to issue a counter train ticket.

Social Isolation

Doing job in a corporate is replete with sacrifices. You sacrifice the joy of being with your near and dear ones whenever you want if working away from home, and in case of working somewhere near your hometown, you are unable to spend enough time with them due to lack of time, tight schedule and the fatigue inflicted by the crushing daylong work. The working hours are only on the paper and not in practice. They create such a pressure that one will automatically stretch for hours beyond the specified working hours to meet their so called customer expectations and “Turn Around Time” notoriously called as TAT and thereby leaving the least leisure time for family, friends and near and dear ones. The corporate employees always seem to be in such a hurry that they do not even shake hand properly lest it could result in some work not being done in time. Except for rare cases, a job in corporate means we will have to forget celebrating festivals with the family; we will not have to think of attending marriages, birth celebrations and funerals and so on. The life here is not much different from a machine working through a human body. Taking leave at your desired and convenient time is like milking a bull. So, if this grave state of isolation from the family and society is life, then what is the death?

Intellectual Bankruptcy

Another significant damage that corporates cause to a person is the intellectual insolvency. They keep people occupied to such a dangerous extent that they are unable to think beyond home-to-office and vice-versa cycle. I have come across some instances where people did not even know their country’s president, vice president and key ministers’ names. So, if the people working with a corporate are so ignorant of these basic information, how they would prove fruitful to the nation and the people, at least by using their voting rights. As surviving in this shrewd and callous world with dignity requires people to be sufficiently aware of the state of affairs around them, one has to think beyond managing the daily square meals; however the corporates seldom leave any chances to let them think beyond.
24/7 Business Cycle and Its Impact

In this era of globalization, the policy of business continuity round the clock is a dangerous phenomenon. The corporates, in order to maximize their profit in the least possible time, have adopted the strategy of the business being run through the entire 24 hours day cycle at the cost of extreme hardships meted out to the employees. At the time of joining, either the companies ask their employees to accept by signing that they would work in any shifts including night shifts if required; or they would forcibly push them into any odd shift depending upon the requirement. One can imagine how challenging that would be for a person, working throughout the night and then managing his/her own affairs in the daylight including sleep that cannot be substituted with the one in night. Owing to this evil practice, the employee’s own life gets reduced to an abject toy being played whenever required leaving no room for his/her own priorities.

For this nefarious practice, the corporates alone could not be blamed and the government is equally responsible as this happens under the very approval from it, for cheap economic growth.

Stagnant Compensation

The salaries offered by the corporates might look attractive and luring to people, however once offered they remain almost stagnant compared to the related inflation. Companies often set such ambiguous benchmarks and expectations that are barely achievable. Even if you toil day and night and achieve 100 % as per the defined parameters, at the end of the day you would listen to the wise sentence “Its good, however we expected even more from a person like you” resulting in getting you minimum for the maximum. As these companies are well trained in keeping the sparks of hope alive among the employees by extending promises like that of extending grass to a horse and keep holding it back one he comes nearer, many times, many people slip unintentionally into a long association with the company and ultimately getting even more frustrated.

Health Hazards

Due to hard and demanding work, working for longer hours and working at odd times like night, many times it results in depression, frequent headache, entire body pain, back pain and sometimes even diabetes and many more. So, working in a corporate environment for longer years is bound to entail one disease or the other. In view of the above, it is wise to bid adieu to the corporate at the earliest before it is too late to make a comeback as you would become more crippled with the passage of the time and the corporate hold upon you would emerge stronger.

Government’s Responsibility

To address this menace, first of all, the government should ban the inhuman odd shifts particularly night shift system as there is no use of the money earned through depriving people of the natural sleep. It should also warn the companies of asking employees to stretch beyond the legally specified working hours. However, in extreme cases, it could be allowed against the mandatory pay for the extra time worked. It must formulate very strict regulations to ensure that the companies provide a very comfortable and conducive work environment where one could work free from stress and pressure because there is no meaning of the economic growth and development brought thorough comprising on the quality of people’s lives. However this is something that could hardly be expected from the greedy government which would not want to let its patrons sulk, resulting in lesser taxes to be wasted on luxuries and illegitimate amenities for these insensitive and corrupt politicians.

- tcn

Tamil Nadu: Islamic charitable trust – a terror front?

October 31, 2013 by admin  
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Karnataka, October 25, 2013: Islamic Charitable trust served as terror front say Bangalore police.

Bangalore Malleswaram caseThe charge sheet submitted by the Bangalore City police in the Malleswaram bomb blast case claimed that most of the men involved in the incident were members of the now-proscribed Al-Ummah organisation.

The dossier, however, says the accused were careful not to identify themselves with Al-Ummah after it was banned by the Tamil Nadu government following the Coimbatore serial bombings in 1998.

The charge sheet also states that all the accused in the Malleswaram case belonged to Charitable Trust for Minorities (CTM), a non-governmental organisation in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

Main man

Kitchen Buhari, an accused, is said to have told the police that he was one of the main persons behind the formation of CTM, and that their group had carried out terror activities in the name of the organisation even after Al-Ummah had been banned.

But the trust, he said, put on a false front, claiming to provide legal and financial assistance to Muslims arrested in terror cases.

Buhari came to formally head the organisation three years ago when he shifted his base from his hometown Melapalayam to Coimbatore. The organisation was raising money in the form of donations from his community under the garb of helping Muslims suffering at the hands of the establishment.

The organisation was also politically active, cultivating support to its causes and activities among local Muslims. He has said CTM indeed enjoyed patronage from local politicians of the Muslim League and other organisations and they used the opportunity to protect themselves from police action.

Strategy

Buhari allegedly stated that hundreds of men were associated with CTM and some were even working as volunteers, but not all were privy to their conspiracy, or favoured jihad. Buhari has reportedly revealed that they often met separately and decided their strategy. He said his men had contacted the absconding former members of Al-Ummah and tried to recruit them for jihad. But senior police officials said it was not clear whether they were successful in the endeavour.

Buhari is said to have been involved in the 2011 pipe bomb case targeting Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani and also planned to kill Kutralnathan, a local advocate who took up cases on behalf of Hindu right-wing organisations. However, the module failed to kill him, police said.

- deccan herald

 

Syria: Islamists besiege two villages. 13 killed

October 31, 2013 by admin  
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Islamist militants patrolling Saddad last week

Islamist militants patrolling Saddad last week

Syria, October 29, 2013: Islamist rebels besieged two Christian villages in Syria, killing around 13 people and forcing thousands of families to evacuate their homes.

Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front stormed Saddad and Haffar on Monday last week (21 October). Until then, the villages had been relatively safe, and thousands of internally displaced families had sought refuge there.

A Barnabas Fund partner described the scene as 60 armed vehicles entered Saddad:

As the vehicles and armed personnel made their way through the streets, the shouting of “Allah Akbar” [“Allah is great”] and the touting of the Quran made it clear to both permanent and displaced that their time of relative tranquility was quickly coming to an end. As the armed groups began to set up sniper posts and a campaign of shelling, the day moved from bad to worse.

He said children were crying in fear as the militants took over the villages. It is thought that they were being used as a launching point for strikes against a nearby army base and arsenal. The villages are strategically located between the central city of Homs and the capital Damascus.

Around 13 people were killed, with many more wounded, and while many fled, thousands were held as a human shield.

Our partners helped Christian families to evacuate to neighbouring villages, Homs and Damascus. Barnabas sent funds to provide transport, blankets, food parcels and other essentials.

On Monday (28 October), government forces recaptured the villages, enabling people to return.

Our partner said on Monday:

My brother and 15 young persons were going back to Haffar and they were all crying of joy when they learned they could return. We are arranging for twelve minibuses to bring people from Damascus and Homs today to the two villages. Tomorrow we are arranging for two buses to bring people back from Damascus and will see how to support the return of the others. We are preparing to give [everyone] food parcels upon their return.

Saddad and Haffar are the latest Christian villages to be targeted by Islamist rebels in Syria’s civil war. The attacks follow raids on Saidnaya and the takeover of Maaloula; a version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is spoken in both places.

- barnabas team

Vietnam: Abuse of democratic freedoms. 15 months in prison for activist

October 31, 2013 by admin  
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Abuse of democratic freedoms Vietnam, October 30, 2013: Sentence imposed on the 30 year-old Dinh Nhat Uy commuted to house arrest. He is guilty of having used a social network to condemn Chinese imperialism and calling for the release of his brother, who was also in jail. For his release the Redemptorist Fathers held a moment of prayer in the presence of 1,500 Catholics and non-Catholics.

A court in the southern province of Long An has sentenced the 30 year old activist Vietnamese Dinh Nhat Uy to 15 months in prison, later commuted to house arrest. The verdict arrived yesterday, after a trial lasting only one day, on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms” on social networks. The young man is guilty of using  Facebook to call for the release of his older brother – who is serving four years in prison – and for denouncing “China’s imperialist and expansionist” policy in the Asia-Pacific region . Campaigns to support the young man proved to no avail including Masses and prayer services held by Catholic groups for the family.

The Vietnamese communist regime continues to crack down on internal dissent and the initiatives of those who, in the public square or on the web, ask for constitutional reforms, greater rights and religious freedom. And for the first time Hanoi has punished a citizen for a comment posted on a social network, according to a controversial law adopted in early August (the infamous Decree 72), the application of which remains unclear . Vietnam thus confirms its reputation as an “enemy of the Internet” , as pointed out by Reporters Without Borders ( RSF ) .

In Vietnam, the condemned with suspended sentences are then forced into a sort of personal restriction comparable with house arrest, with limits their movement and includes frequent police checks. The defense lawyer claimed the complete innocence his client and called for his immediate release because he is a “victim of an injustice .”

The court sentenced Dinh Nhat Uy in accordance with Article 258 of the Penal Code, which covers crimes committed for ” abusing democratic freedoms , against the interests of the State” . A crime that can lead to seven years in prison . Outside the court a group of supporters chanted slogans and songs, demanding the release of the young man , under the watchful eye of the security forces who controlled their every move.

30 year old Nhat Uy was born in 1983 in the province of Long An . His arrest came on 15 June this year and is linked to the campaign promoted on the internet – Facebook – calling for the release of his brother Nguyen Dinh Kha , who is also in jail and was sentenced May 16 to four years in prison. Ironically, the two brothers were tried and convicted in the same court .

On October 24, the mother of the two Vietnamese activists, Ngueyn Thi Kim Lien , wrote a letter to the Vietnamese people, international agencies present in the Vietnamese territory and human rights organizations to advocate for her children. A few days later, on the 27th, the family – of Buddhist faith – turned to the Redemptorist Fathers of Saigon, who promoted a prayer service which was attended by over 1500 people both Catholics and non Catholics. The prayer intentions included the release of the two young men and the hope that the Vietnamese Parliament would be inspired to write a “new constitution.”

- asianews

Making sense of the Middle East

October 31, 2013 by admin  
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October 30, 2013: (This article was written in mid-September 2013 and analyses the state of the Middle East at that time.)

Strife in SyriaIn the last three years, Barnabas Aid has carried many news stories and articles about the Middle East. Many of these have focused on the brutal and destructive civil war that has been raging in Syria since 2011, or on the rapid and tumultuous political changes that have racked the nation of Egypt. Since both countries have large Christian minorities, who have been cruelly oppressed as a result of these events, they are of particular concern to Christians in the West.

But the strife in Syria and Egypt is not purely internal. To be understood correctly, it has to be seen in the context of a wider and multi-faceted conflict across the entire region. A number of divisions run across the Middle East, creating political and social tensions of many kinds. The key regional players compete with one another to achieve outcomes that will best serve their own agendas.

These divisions hugely complicate the unfolding dramas in Syria and Egypt, not least because some countries (notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar) are on the same side in one of the conflicts and on opposite sides in the other. They also further jeopardise the already precarious position of Christians in the region, many of whom are caught up in the wider struggle but have little power to influence it.

In this article we shall consider some of the most important of the divisions in order to illuminate not only recent events in Syria and Egypt, but also the developing crisis across the entire Middle East.We shall also spell out some of the implications for Christian minorities in the affected countries.

SUNNI VERSUS SHIA

The conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims has a long and bloody history. The split originated little more than 20 years after the death of Muhammad, in a dispute over the succession to the leadership of the Muslim community. When Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, became caliph in 656, he was not universally accepted as the rightful heir, and war broke out between his supporters and his opponents. Although Ali and his sons were all killed, his followers, Shia Ali (the party of Ali), continued and became the Shia Muslims.

Sunni empires and states have been the dominant force in Islam, and Sunnis have comprised the majority population. They represent at least 80% of the world’s Muslims today and around 90% of those in the Middle East. But the Shia are a majority in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain and have significant minorities in Lebanon, Yemen and some other Gulf states. The Shia Alawite sect has also ruled Syria for decades through the current President Assad and his father, despite their being only a small minority in the country.

Sunnis and Shias remain hostile to each other, and in the Middle East this hostility has intensified in recent decades since the resurgence of activist Shia Islam. That revival was seen most clearly in the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the emergence of the militant Shia group Hezbollah in Lebanon in 1982. Sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias broke out in Iraq following the US-led invasion of 2003 and has continued sporadically ever since, whileIran has hardly troubled to hide its intention of extending its influence in the region. Meanwhile the Sunni regimes in the Arabian Peninsula are battling to suppress their own restive Shia minorities (or in Bahrain’s case, majority) while supporting anti-Shia groups elsewhere.

The conflict between Sunnis and Shias is becoming more complex because of outside allegiances. Some Sunnis support Hezbollah because they are opposed to Saudi Arabia. Equally, Lebanese Christians may support either Hezbollah or the Sunnis. In both Lebanonand Syria, Christians may end up supporting Sunnis, Shia, Hezbollah or Kurds depending where they find themselves, for self-preservation.

The main Sunni-Shia battle is currently between the Sunni states of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf (including Qatar) and the Shia nation of Iran, with the West siding with the Gulf states againstIran and its nuclear potential. It is being played out most graphically and tragically in the cities and villages of Syria. The Alawite government is a key Iranian ally, and both Iran and Hezbollah have declared their plans to defend Syrian President Assad, even against attacks from the West. But Saudi Arabia and Qatar, eager to deprive their Iranian rival of its Shia partner, are supporting and arming the opposition forces.

An opposition (Sunni) victory in Syria is likely to have a devastating effect on Iran and its Shia allies. The regime in Iran would come under increasing pressure from its own discontented population, and a new political system might emerge. Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Shia supporters would also be greatly weakened. Although these changes might have some positive political results, there is also a danger that the wounded Shias would lash out against soft targets as a way of bolstering their popular support, especially perhaps the highly vulnerable Christians in Iran. (The outlook for Syrian Christians in this scenario is examined below.)

Aggression between Shias and Sunnis has spread to neighbouring countries. A Sunni jihadi group in Iraq killed hundreds of Shias in 2012, aiming to eradicate key Shia strongholds in the country. In Lebanon the two communities have lined up in support of the Syrian government and opposition respectively, sometimes with bombings and gun battles. Hezbollah is also perceived to threaten the stability of Lebanon and the wider region, as it has become a state within a state, is anti-Israel and obtains its arms from Iran. The Shias of Syria with the Alawi-led government of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian Shia regime and Hezbollah are perceived as a single entity that the West, Israel and the Gulf states would like to see dismantled. An al-Qaeda-linked group has also threatened Shia supporters of Hezbollah with attacks.

The turbulence created by this inter-Muslim conflict looks set to continue for some time, with potentially disastrous consequences for Christians and others caught in the crossfire. But the prospect of a decisive Sunni victory in Syria seems no more promising for them.

SECULAR LIBERALS VERSUS ISLAMISTS

Middle EastAt its beginning, the Arab Spring of 2011 was widely hailed as a victory for Western-style liberal democracy over despotic autocracy. But the picture that later emerged was a very mixed one. Only in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were governments actually overthrown; in various other countries, sustained civil disorder or more moderate protests brought some political changes, but the old regimes continued in power. In still other places, major or minor protests effected little significant change. At least, however, the optimists could point to free elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as a sign of positive change.

But the infant democracy in Egypt has already come to grief, as the elected government has been toppled in a popular uprising supported by the military. The Tunisian regime is deadlocked with its opposition following the assassination of two politicians, and the Libyan government is struggling to contain numerous hostile militias (many of them linked to al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups) who are defying its attempts to disarm them.

The people of these nations are learning the hard way that democracy is about more than votes and elections. In order to flourish it requires a strong civil society, including a fair and free press, a strong and independent judiciary, laws that protect individual rights and safeguard the political process, and an educated and informed electorate. Many or all of these essential conditions are lacking in North Africa.

At the heart of the crisis, at least in Egypt and Tunisia, lies a fundamental conflict between secular liberals and Islamists over the roles of Islam and the state. While liberal or progressive Muslims, along with Christians and other minorities, believe that religion and the state should be separate, Islamists insist that Islam must dominate the state. They believe that the Islamic source texts and sharia law contain sufficient guidance for a complete social and political system, and that the state is the best tool for implementing this. As a result, they seek to gain political power by any means they can, including by democratic elections, and then to use the coercive power of the state to enforce sharia.

Although the early Arab Spring protests were dominated by liberals, who called for Western rights and freedoms, these were not delivered by the subsequent elections. In Tunisia andEgypt, the long established and better organised Islamist movements capitalised on the power vacuum to pursue their own goals. The Islamist parties, Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood, duly emerged victorious from the polls in Tunisia and Egypt respectively.

The Muslim Brotherhood at once began to exert its grip on Egyptian politics and society. It rapidly imposed its own Islamist agenda, pushing through an unpopular constitution that gave clerics an undefined role in ensuring that all legislation complied with sharia. The Islamist regime of President Mohammad Morsi was characterised by a series of power grabs directed at (for example) the judiciary, regional government and the media. Christians were among the worst affected by the new order, with an increase in violent attacks and a growing number of “blasphemy” cases that saw them jailed for allegedly insulting Islam. The government offered them no effective protection and failed to take action against those responsible.

It appeared that Islamist success in Tunisia and especially Egypt would herald a strengthening of Islamism throughout the Middle East. Its goal of reshaping society and politics on the basis of sharia to create Islamic states ruled by Islamists seemed within touching distance. There was even talk of re-establishing the caliphate, a united Islamic state under one ruler or caliph.

But all was not as it seemed. Discontent grew rapidly among secularists in Egypt, who saw their revolution being hijacked by the Islamists. The government also failed effectively to address the country’s economic crisis, and inflation (especially rising food prices) fuelled popular discontent. Mass public protests erupted on the streets. Despite attempts by the Egyptian government to neutralise the army, it retained its independent political power and was ready to respond to the massive unrest. And Saudi Arabia, which feared Islamist groups as a threat to its monarchical government, was much alarmed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s progress. It is thought to have been heavily involved in Morsi’s fall, and it is bankrolling the new military government.

Meanwhile, secularists in Tunisia have been emboldened by the coup and have also taken to the streets. They have demanded that the Islamist Ennahda government should step aside and make way for a caretaker government. In what had appeared to be Islamism’s new stronghold of North Africa, it has lost ground in terms of both popularity and political power and is suddenly on the defensive, if not in disarray. These changes are likely also to impactTurkey, whose own government has been moving increasingly towards an Islamist position.

Sadly the beleaguered Christians of Egypt have seen no improvement in their conditions since the fall of the Islamist government. On the contrary, they are suffering one of the worst periods of targeted violence against them in modern history. Because of their known opposition to Islamism they were scapegoated by the Muslim Brotherhood for the military takeover, and they have seen churches and other Christian institutions attacked and Christian homes and businesses daubed with a black X to mark them for destruction. Some Christians have also been killed. There are concerns that a full-scale Islamist insurgency may break out in Sinai in the north and Minya and Assuit in the south, which will endanger the Christian population still further. However, despite the persecution they are enduring, Egyptian Christians have forgiven their persecutors and not retaliated.

SAUDI ARABIA VERSUS QATAR

Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most rigid, hardline and authoritarian state in the entire region, and it is working hard to preserve its monarchical regime. At the time of the Arab Spring it cracked down hard on its own Shia protestors and helped the Sunni rulers of Bahrain to suppress theirs. And although it played a key role in encouraging the populist Sunni uprisings in various other countries, it rejects political Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood that use the democratic process to gain power. Its extreme conservative brand of Islam, Salafi-Wahhabism, is inherently opposed to democracy.

The small nation of Qatar has used the developing crisis in the Middle East to assume a more significant role. It has provided leadership for the international effort for regime change inSyria, and also for the Libyan insurgency and the new government’s efforts at reconstruction. But unlike Saudi Arabia, it has also maintained close relations with the main political Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood (which has its headquarters there), and supported its government in Egypt. It has also hosted various opposition governments in waiting. By these means it has hoped to avoid a terrorist threat within its own borders and also to promote a stable environment for Qatari investment abroad.

However, major political changes are currently taking place in Qatar. The ruling emir has retired and been succeeded by his son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Both countries have immense oil wealth, and they are more than ready to use it to shape the society and politics of other countries and so to safeguard their own position. But this makes them rivals for influence in the Middle East, and this tension is highlighted by the conflict between Saudi tradition and Qatari reformism as described above.

So although the two nations are on the same (opposition) side in the Syrian civil war, they take opposite views on who should succeed Assad. Qatar wants a Muslim Brotherhood regime to be installed, while Saudi Arabia would see this as a threat. When the Brotherhood swept to power in Egypt, Qatar appeared to hold the upper hand; but now the Islamist government has been toppled, Saudi Arabia is in the ascendant.

Anti-Christian repression is more severe in Saudi Arabia than anywhere else in the region. Non-Muslim places of worship are forbidden, and although the substantial expatriate Christian community is supposedly allowed to worship in private, they are subject to raids and arrests. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death, and the small number of indigenous Christians practice their faith in extreme secrecy. Qatar permits Christian worship in a designated area, and expatriate Christians are subject to few restrictions, except that they are forbidden to evangelise. But apostasy is technically a capital offence there too, and indigenous Christians operate mainly underground.

The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is contributing to the instability and violence in both Egypt and Syria, with all its disastrous consequences for Christians. But the unchallenged dominance in the region of either country would be unlikely to enhance the freedom or security of the churches.

ETHNIC AND SECTARIAN TENSIONS

Within this regional power struggle are numerous ethnic and religious minorities that are either pursuing greater security or just trying to survive.

The Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups in the region without a state of their own. Around 30 million of them are spread across Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and they are pressing for greater independence. In recent years they have established a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, and they support the opposition to Assad in the hope of doing the same in northern Syria. But although their nationalist ambitions are thus contributing to regional instability, they have been generally hospitable to Christians fleeing from violence in central and southern Iraq, many of whom have found relative safety in the north.

Not for the first time in their long and difficult history, the Jewish people of Israel are also threatened by the factions and volatility of their powerful neighbours to the north and south. They are largely isolated, and a strong Islamist political presence in either Syria or Egyptmagnifies the danger that they face. The ousted Egyptian President Morsi was quoted as making a number of vitriolic statements against the Jews, including a call for a Palestinian state on the “entire land of Palestine”; had his government remained in power, Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty would have been under threat. Islamist rule in Syria would renew the long-standing danger the country poses to Israel’s north-eastern border.

As for the Christians, they are the most vulnerable minority in the Middle East. In addition to their oppression in Arabia and persecution in Egypt, outlined above, they are now facing the wholesale destruction of one of their most ancient communities, trapped in the tortured nation of Syria. Since the uprising began, Syrian Christians have been ruthlessly targeted by Islamist militants within the opposition; their churches have been destroyed, their homes taken over and their people kidnapped and killed.

This is a grim repeat of what happened to Iraqi Christians following the US-led invasion of 2003, when hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes following targeted attacks by Islamist militants, who associated them with the Western powers because of their faith. The Assad regime in Syria had afforded considerable freedom and protection to Christians and other minorities; if it falls, there is some danger that the greater part of the Church in Syria will be obliterated.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSES

The response of Western governments to the continuing crisis has been mixed. The US and UK desire to weaken Iran, and in particular to thwart its nuclear agenda. They are also hostile to the Assad regime in Syria, both for its suppression of political dissent at home and for its support for insurgents and militants abroad, especially in Iraq and Lebanon. For these and perhaps other reasons they have allied themselves with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in support of the Syrian opposition.

In Egypt the US initially backed the Muslim Brotherhood as the democratically elected government, although it sometimes appeared not to recognise the movement’s essentially Islamist character and aims. For example, at a House of Representatives Intelligence Committee hearing in February 2011, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, described the Brotherhood as a “largely secular” organisation with “no overarching agenda”.

But the removal of Morsi created a dilemma for America as to whether or not this constituted a coup, in which case there would be implications for its ongoing financial and military support of the Egyptian army. It appears to be waiting to see how the fast changing events work out before committing itself to one side or another, while remaining committed to the “non-violent Islamist movements” as potentially the best way of bringing stability to the region.

Both Russia and China are concerned about the growth of radical Islamism, including Islamist terror groups, in the region, as they see it affecting their own countries, where they are facing similar problems. In the Caucasus the Russians face al-Qaeda and a rising tide of Islamist movements. Similarly, in the Xinyang province of China the Uighurs are seeking independence or autonomy and are developing close links with radical Islamist and terror groups in the Middle East.

Islamism in the Middle East poses a real threat to other societies, including those in the West, where radical Islamism is spreading and many Western Muslims are going to fight alongside jihadists in Syria and elsewhere, returning home to become potential jihadists themselves. Western countries are not fully grappling with this problem.

CONCLUSION

One consistent thread in Western policy towards the Middle East is its failure to support or protect the region’s defenseless Christians. Its actions have contributed to the virtual extinction of the Church in Iraq and seem set to have the same result in Syria, while Christian communities elsewhere have looked in vain for help as they groan under the yoke of persecution.

In fact the intricate divisions described above have generated a surprising new alignment. While Western nations are increasingly on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi-Wahhabis and against the Iranians and other Shias, Russia and China are seen as more supportive of a liberal and anti-Islamist position and of the Shias, including Iran. As a result, Christians find themselves supported by Russia and China (not traditionally seen as friends of the Church), while the historic supporters of religious liberty and human rights in the West, which have seen themselves as Christian nations and co-religionists with Middle Eastern Christians, are aiding the radical Islamists and denying Christians their fundamental freedoms.

Western governments face a major challenge in navigating the complexities of the current crisis in the Middle East. It is to be hoped that they will at last take into account the desperate plight of the region’s Christians and take action to defend and strengthen them.

- barnabas team

Laziness & Living productive lives

October 31, 2013 by admin  
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Titus 3:14-15   Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. (NIV)

Paul's letter to TitusLaziness is easy.
It does not require any effort or thought. However, unoccupied hands and undisciplined minds invite Satan to tempt us to wickedness.

It was apparently a problem in Crete where laziness was part of the national character (Titus 1:12) and therefore Paul instructed that the new Christians should learn a new way of life allowing no space for Satan to work.

At the same time, by doing what was good and right, they would earn their own living, provide for their families, and be good examples to the church.
In the same way that uncultivated agricultural land loses its nutrients over a period of time so that it is useless in the long term, so Christians who do not discipline themselves to do good each day cannot serve the interests of God’s Kingdom. Of course we all need encouragement.

Paul's & TitusPaul’s letter to Titus concludes with greetings from his ministry team as well – they all wanted the new believers to be useful to God. And Paul especially wanted to encourage those he had led to Christ; it was important that they should not slip back into old ways.
Changing our hearts to want a new lifestyle is only possible through God’s grace. He takes the initiative to reach out to us.

As we respond, He fills us with His Holy Spirit giving us spiritual gifts to enable us to work productively in His Kingdom. For most of us that productive work takes place in the context of our employment, enabling us to be a blessing to our families and local communities.

Our workplace is therefore more than just a source of personal revenue, but part of God’s purpose. He knows that work is good for us, however hard it may be.

And as we work, embracing the challenges, He is at work inside us, to change us to be more like Him and to strengthen us so that our lives will not be unproductive.

Prayer for the day :

Dear Lord God.

Family prayerThank You for giving me each new day so that I can work for You. Forgive me when I succumb to laziness and lose my motivation.

Help me to see the importance of being productive every day. If I am working for others, may I do so cheerfully as unto You.

If I have no earthly master, please direct me so that I may fill each day wisely in a way which pleases You, meeting the needs of those around me.

May I see my workplace as Your gift to me, through which You will change me and use me to be a blessing to others.

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

- fwd: vc mathews

Your gifts are for other People

October 30, 2013 by admin  
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“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10 NLT)

 spiritual giftsThe Bible says in 1 Peter 4:10-11, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (NLT). When you use your abilities to help each other, God is glorified.

God wired you to make a contribution. God did not give you your talents and abilities for your benefit. They are for the benefit of other people, and their talents are for the benefit of you.

spiritual giftsI am so grateful for people who are talented in areas that I’m not good at. For instance, I’m grateful for accountants. Because I stink at accounting! I’m grateful for people who know how to do taxes.

I’m grateful for people who have mechanical ability. I couldn’t fix a carburetor if I had to. I wouldn’t even know where it is!

Everybody has different talents.

spiritual gifts and talentsGod has given me some talents. One of my talents is taking the Word of God and making it clear for other people to understand. When I use that ability, you get blessed. My talent is for you. It’s to help you.

But here’s the point: You’ve got talent, too. When are you going to start blessing others? When are you going to start helping others?

If you don’t use your talent that God gave you, other people get cheated. The way you bring glory to God is by using your talent. “Use your gifts well to serve one another.” God is glorified when you use your abilities to serve others.

Talk It Over

  • What are the gifts that God has given to you?
  • How are you using them to serve others? How do you think God wants you to use them for the benefit of others?

*** *** ***
by Rick Warren

- Fwd: rebecca kurien

Romans 12:6

Assam: Minority scheme fails to reach Christian village

October 30, 2013 by admin  
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Road construction connecting Tamenglong district headquarters town to Haflong in Assam

Road construction connecting Tamenglong district headquarters town to Haflong in Assam

Assam, October 29, 2013: The scheme includes construction of houses, health centers, industrial training institutes, schools, laboratories and destitution of minority scholarship in minority-dominated districts.

Some Christians in Assam-Meghalaya border say their village continues underdeveloped without having any benefit from the Prime Minister’s Multi-Sector Development Program ((MsDP) meant for minorities.

Kinangaon village of some150 Garo Christian families does not have a high school, college, health centre, safe drinking water supply, proper electricity, mobile phone facility or even a proper road.

The village, barely 70 km from Assam’s capital, remains completely cut off from the rest of Kamrup district during monsoon, Dilip Sangma, the village headman, told Telegraph news paper.

He said the village, under Boko revenue circle in Kamrup district, has only a government lower primary and middle English school with two teachers for each institute. There is not a single college in Kinangaon.

“After completion of the school, students have to go either to Boko or the Meghalaya side of the border for further studies. Despite all odds, the village has been able to produce some graduates, post-graduates and a few doctors and engineers. Unfortunately, most of the educated youths from this village have to migrate to Meghalaya to get employment,” Sangma added.

Apart from basic infrastructure and civic amenities, the village has not received any education benefit, including minority scholarships.

Russel R. Marak, an educated youth who recently sat for the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) but could not clear it, said political leaders come to the village only during elections.

“I have heard about MsDP. But I have not noticed any kind of initiative from the government’s end to implement the Prime Minister’s scheme,” Russel said.

Kinangaon is just one example of the state government’s failure to effectively implement the program in the state and this seems ironical, as it has been making tall claims of welfare of minorities.

The scheme includes construction of houses, health centers, industrial training institutes, schools, laboratories and destitution of minority scholarship in minority-dominated districts. Followers of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are considered minorities.

Kamrup deputy commissioner J. Balaji expressed ignorance on Kinangaon and appealed to villagers to approach his office.

I will also inquire whether any scheme was sanctioned or not earlier for the village. If it is a fit case, we will definitely implement MsDP for the people of Kinangaon,” Balaji said.

- the telegraph

Vatican sends Diwali greetings

October 30, 2013 by admin  
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Rome, October 30, 2013: The biggest Hindu festival falls on Nov. 3 this year.

Vatican sends Diwali greetingsThe Vatican’s inter-religious dialogue chief has sent greetings for the upcoming Diwali festival stressing the common humanity shared by Christians, Hindus and other religions, ethnicities and cultures.

“In a spirit of friendship, the Pontifical Council for Inter religious Dialogue extends to you best wishes and cordial greetings,” Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said in a message.

“May God, the source of all light and life, illumine your lives and deepen your happiness and peace,” he said.

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights beginning Sunday, symbolises the victory of good over evil, truth over falsehood, and life over death, the message recalled, adding that its roots lay in ancient mythology.

The message urged Christians and Hindus to foster human relationships based on “friendship and solidarity”.

“Regardless of our ethnic, cultural, religious and ideological differences, all of us belong to the one human family,” it said.

“May we, Hindus and Christians, work individually and collectively, with all religious traditions and people of goodwill, to foster and strengthen the human family through friendship and solidarity,” the message concluded.

Tauran is president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, the Vatican’s inter-faith dialogue body.

- ians

54 acquitted in Kandhamal Church burning case

October 30, 2013 by admin  
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Odisha, October 30, 2013: They were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

54 acquitted in Kandhamal Church burning caseA court in Odisha’s Kandhamal district yesterday acquitted 54 people who were arrested for their alleged involvement in the 2007 riots in the communally sensitive district.

Additional district and sessions judge, Phulbani, Rajendra Kumar Tosh, acquitted them due to lack of proper evidence against them in the case.

The prosecution alleged that the arrested persons had allegedly set on fire an Odia Baptist church and 14 houses at Barkhama village in the district on December 25, the Christmas day, in 2007.

The district had experienced riots on the Christmas Day in 2007 and another such clash after the killing of senior VHP leader Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati in 2008.

Two separate judicial commissions were now enquiring into the reasons behind the riots and measures to be adopted for preventing re-occurrence of such incidents in future.

- pti/economic times

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