What Catholics could learn from the Dalai Lama

September 27, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

ChurchSeptember 19, 2014: Historically, Christianity hasn’t been very open to the idea of being influenced by other religions. In the early days of the faith, we borrowed from Hellenism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Judaism and various “pagan” religions, repurposing their symbols to mean something new. Following the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, we focused more on converting others to our faith, or at least denigrating the legitimacy of other faiths to establish ours as superior.

Oh, but times, they are changing.

Our numbers are down, our influence continues to wane, and we’re struggling with what I call in “postChristian” both an identity crisis and a credibility crisis. The good news is that in this newly humbled state lies a glimmer of opportunity. Not the kind we’ve had previously, to once again dominate the cultural landscape. That time has passed. Rather, as more of us within the Christian faith take less for granted, we’re asking harder questions:

Who are we?

Why do we still identify as Christians?

How could our faith be better?

We need not look any further than the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political head of the Tibetan Buddhist faith, and in particular, the titular leader of the Tibetan people (don’t tell the Chinese government). In a recent statement, some of which was shared in a Huffington Post article, the Dalai Lama put forward the bold proposal that he is the last in a line of Dalai Lamas, a position within Buddhism for almost five centuries.

“The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular,” he said. “Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama.”

Now, imagine the Pope saying that.

Actually, it’s a little more conceivable coming from Pope Francis than from his recent predecessors. Or imagine the head of a major denomination dissolving their position and the general office than accompanies it, not out of financial necessity, but simply because they felt the role had run its due course.

Considering the entire scope of the comment, it’s reasonable to assume that part of his intent is politically strategic. After all, communist China claims Tibet – the spiritual and cultural epicenter of Tibetan Buddhism – as one of its own territories, and Tibet itself is not a democracy. Ganden Thurman, Executive Director of Tibet House US, told the Huffington Post for the same article that “His Holiness is looking for the resolution to the China issue and for [the Tibetan people’s] own governance. Both of those issues are looking for what’s best for the Tibetan people.”

Imagine a religious body potentially sacrificing centuries of tradition and spiritual practice for the betterment of its people. Sounds like something Jesus would do.

What might such sacrifice look like in the Christian world?

The United Nations estimates that the entirety of the world’s hunger problems could be solved with an annual budget of approximately $30 billion. Meanwhile, a recent study by The Economist magazine estimated that the Catholic Church in the United States alone had an annual combined budget of $170 billion in 2010, when all of the assets of the Church are considered together. So in theory, by allocating about one-sixth of the total budget of the Catholic Church in the United States to solving hunger (not counting any other denominations, religions, or even Catholic institutions outside the US), hunger could conceivably disappear from the face of the earth.

The Dalai Lama also went on to say that if the Buddhist community determines to keep with the tradition of appointing a new Dalai Lama upon his death, the faith might benefit from a woman’s hand and heart. He cites the desperate need for greater compassion in the world as at least one reason why a female leader might be better suited to lead.

When it comes to Christianity’s institutional systems, preserving what once was too often gets in the way of actively and fearlessly invoking what might be. Let’s take this opportunity to learn from the Dalai Lama’s example and practice a little bit more of what we preach.

– patheos

Buddhists and animal rights activists against animal slaughter for Durga

September 27, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

animal-slaughterNepal, September 25, 2014: The celebration of the great Hindu festival of Dashain is becoming controversial in Nepal as Buddhist leaders and environmentalists urge the majority to stop slaughtering animals for ritualistic blood sacrifices “that no longer make sense”. Whilst most Hindus defend the traditions, some agree that change might come but it will be “gradual”.

Dashain is Nepal’s longest and most important festival. Even Nepalis leaving abroad try to get home to join their family for the 15-days celebration. Government offices, many businesses, schools and universities are closed for this period.

The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil and the birth of the goddess Durga, created to fight the demon Mahishasura and stop his reign of terror in the world of god and man.

The first nine days of Dashain symbolise the struggle between the two. According to tradition, on the eighth and ninth day the fresh blood of animals is sacrificed, a gift to appease the goddess engaged in the final stages of her battle.

However, animal rights activists this is an inhumane practice. “Killing an animal to eat its flesh is something understandable, even if we are against it. However, such a waste is beyond the pale.”

Although there are no official statistics on the number of animals killed during the festival, several industry experts say that hundreds of thousands of buffaloes, goats, pigeons and ducks are slaughtered each year.

“We have been struggling for some time against the death of the animals,” said Ananda, a monk who heads a local Buddhist community. “We can say with satisfaction that thanks to our awareness campaign, the number of animal sacrifices has dropped.”

“We have no problem with the festival itself,” he explained, “but we would like to see alternatives such as floral or fruit offerings.” What is more, “Such killings influence young children”.

“No religion demands violence,” said Govinda Tondon, a Hindu expert and leader. “Peace and mercy have to be at the heart of the faith.” However, “In Hinduism, some very old traditional practices rest on the belief that the goddess Durga needs a supply of fresh blood. Certainly, we can begin to rethink this tradition, but it will take time, and will mostly be a gradual change.”

– asianews

Boko Haram seizes Christian town, declares Islamic caliphate as anti-Christian attacks in Nigeria increase

September 27, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Boko HaramAfrica, September 18, 2014: Boko Haram has seized a predominantly Christian town in Adamawa state in an attempt to expand the territory it holds in Northern Nigeria. The Islamist group has declared a caliphate – a united Islamic state under one ruler or caliph – in areas it has taken, further threatening vulnerable Christians.

It is not clear how many people were killed when the militants raided Michika, and nearby Bazza, on 8 September. A Christian source in Nigeria wrote:

They came and devastated Michika town today, burning and shooting. As I’m writing now there is no single person in the town… everybody has run for his or her dear life, hence I cannot tell you the level of damage right now. Keep praying for us.

A second source on the ground said that many people were killed and that others were carried away alive. It is also reported that at least one church building and a Bible school were destroyed, and that a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives was abducted.

The raid came after at least 100 Christians were massacred, and two churches burned, by Boko Haram in a shocking attack on the predominantly Christian city of Gwoza in Borno state. After the city was seized on 6 August, the Islamist group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared that it was now “part of the Islamic caliphate”.

An Islamist flag was raised over Gwoza in an act mirroring that of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now calling itself simply the Islamic State) who have been committing atrocities against Christians and others in Iraq. ISIS has also declared the restoration of the caliphate and intelligence agencies are concerned that the group has offered Boko Haram advice on strategy and tactics.

Boko Haram’s aim of turning Borno state into a caliphate is slowly being realised. Other towns in the north-east of the state have also been seized. Men over the age of 18 in the territory are being shot, and Christian women have been forced to convert on pain of death.

Islamist violence in border areas is also spilling over into Cameroon, where Nigerian Christian refugees and others are being affected.

Violence by Fulani herdsmen increases

Violence against Christians in Nigeria is not only being committed by Boko Haram. Attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen are increasing at an alarming rate, particularly in Kaduna state in the North and in the Middle Belt state of Taraba.

On 14 September Christians were killed and homes were burned in Tunari village, in the Wukari area of Taraba state, by Fulani herdsmen. It is not yet known exactly how many villagers were killed, but it is thought that at least 20 men, women and children died in the attack. The Christians were attending a Sunday worship service at the time of the violence.

It is thought that Fulani herdsmen behind attacks in Taraba have been collaborating with Islamic extremists.

A similar incident also occurred in Kaduna state, where Christians have endured repeated attacks. On 3 August, one person was killed and three others seriously injured in an assault by armed Fulani herdsmen as worshippers attended a morning church service in the village of Ungwan Powpow.

– barnabas team

His listening heart

September 27, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

One of my sons when he was little had an endearing habit of grabbing my face
so that I would look at him while he was talking.
I confess that as a busy mom I was often distracted and found myself half-listening to my talkative son
and this was his way of grabbing my attention and ensuring that I was focused on him.

Child

Even at such a young age, my son had a built in longing to be heard and understood,
to be loved and valued for who he was.

We all have a yearning deep in our soul to be heard and understood, love and valued for who we are.
Have you ever been talking on the phone with a friend when you get a little niggling doubt
that they might not really be listening to you?

It can be devastating to bear your soul, only to discover later in the conversation
that they haven’t even heard a word you’ve said.

Do you ever secretly wonder if God is the same way?

He’s got so much on His mind, demanding His attention,
how could He ever have time to listen to your concerns?

God

Does He really have the time to stop, bend down and listen to you?

Look at what Psalm 116:1-2 says,
“I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!”

This is God in relationship with us!
Drawing close.  Bending down.  Listening intently.   Loving fully.
Isn’t this the kind of God we’ve been searching for?

Just as a child longs to have his parent’s undivided attention,
our heart longs for God’s ever attentive love.
He made us this way.  He put within us this longing.

Listening

But so often we go away from Him and not towards Him.
We ignore the need of our heart and turn to other things to satisfy the deep longing of our soul.

Then because these things never completely satisfy us, we get disillusioned in our faith,
wonder if God even cares and question whether He is really listening or not.

come back

But amazingly He is listening and He is waiting for us to turn to Him.
And when we finally do He bends down and gently takes our face in His hands,
wipes the tears from our eyes and says,
“I’m listening, my child, what do need to tell me?”

– fwd: vc mathews

Eric Metaxas: Christians who remain silent about persecution in the mideast enable evil

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

mid-east-persecutionWashington, September 20, 2014 — Eric Metaxas compared the silence of Christians about persecution in the Middle East and religious freedom restrictions domestically to the silence of Christians in Nazi Germany.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, Metaxas reminded the audience at the In Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit on Sept. 11.

Metaxas is the author of a biography of Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who spoke up about the persecution of the Jews and was put to death by the Third Reich.

The evil acts of Nazi Germany were partly enabled by the conflation of national identity with the Church, Metaxas said. He compared it to his own experience of growing up in a Greek family where he was led to believe that being Greek meant that you belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, which meant that you are a Christian. Similarly, Germans believed that being German meant being Lutheran, which meant that you are a Christian.

“Well this is nonsense,” he explained. “You can’t be born Christian. You can only be born-again as a Christian. We’re born in sin.”

National identity, he said, is not the same as being a follower of Jesus, and believing they are the same can lead to some serious consequences, such as what happened in Germany. The Church must always be “the conscience of the state,” but the Church cannot do this if its identity is aligned with the state.

“It’s not appropriate to conflate nationalism, our national identity, with our faith in Jesus Christ,” Metaxas said.

Since a Christian’s allegiance is first to the Church of Jesus Christ, he continued, rather than to a national or ethnic identity, this means Christians must speak out about the persecution of their fellow believers in Christ, regardless of any national, racial or ethnic differences they may have.

“If your allegiance is not first and foremost to Jesus, you are not a Christian,” he said. “If your allegiance is to a political entity or to a national entity or to a tribal entity before you have your allegiance to Jesus, you are not a Christian.”

Metaxas also compared the silence of Christians on the issue of persecution to the silence of Christians on the issues of the Obama administration’s birth control mandate and the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in some states.

“If you do not speak out, when religious freedom is threatened,” he said, “when there is persecution of Christians, if you do not speak out, you are being silent, you are participating in evil. And when American Christians keep their mouths shut, as typically we have done, with terrible persecutions around the world, God will not hold us guiltless.”

– christian post

Caritas resolves to change attitude

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

cartisBangalore, September 22, 2014: Caritas India has resolved to bring about an attitudinal change in the organization as well as at community levels for entrusting ownership of development action to the community.

The decision was taken at the Caritas’ National Assembly held in Bangalore last week.

By declaring to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity, the diocesan directors of social apostolate also resolved to accompany and support the development process of people by playing a facilitating role.

Caritas India’s executive director Fr. Frederick D’Souza called the heads of the member organization to shift role from directors to animators.

He called Pope Francis as one of the greatest animators of the present time with “highest Twitter followers, after US President Obama”.

While clarifying concerns that the assembly is not held in the pretext of the post the general election scenario in the country, Fr. D’Souza said “Caritas has a mandate from Jesus and we are not afraid of the emerging political scenario”.

Taking support from the health sector he said, “70,000 hospital beds across the country is a huge, huge responsibility” shouldered by the Church and nobody can deny that.”

– press release

‘Reconverting’ churches and Christians: BJP’s ‘Hindu Samaj’ strategy in UP

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

BJPUP, September 01, 2014: The Meerut case in which a young woman was allegedly gang raped and forcibly converted to Islam was obviously not the last we heard about religious conversions in the dramatically polarised state of Uttar Pradesh. Just weeks after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s ‘Dharm Jagran Vibhag’ or religious awakening department promised a “homecoming ceremony” for youth “rescued” from conversions in western Uttar Pradesh, a church in the region’s Aligarh district was overnight turned into a Shiva temple following a “purification” ceremony for 72 members of the Valmiki caste who embraced Christianity in 1995.

Representational image of BJP flags. AFP imageRepresentational image of BJP flags. AFP image

The ceremony took place inside a 7th Day Adventist church in Asroi, 30 km from Aligarh town, according to The Times of India.

“A cross was allegedly remove from the church and placed outside the gate and a portrait of Shiva installed,” the report said.

The RSS’s Khem Chandra, also chief of the Dharma Jagran Vibhag, was quoted as calling it a “ghar wapasi” event or a homecoming.

“This is called ghar wapasi, not conversion. They left by choice and today they have realized their mistake and want to come back. We welcome them. We can’t let our samaj scatter, we have to hold it tight. I have told them that honour comes from within the community and not from outside,” he was quoted as saying.

Even as tension spread in the village and villagers clammed up, one of those who underwent the so-called shuddhikaran or purification ceremony held inside the church told the newspaper that these families had converted to Christianity because they had been unhappy with the caste system. But religious conversion did not improve their lot and he finally agreed to return to the Hindu fold.

Expectedly, the Christians in Aligarh are not amused. A pastor was upset at the pooja being conducted inside the church, while a lawyer from the community was quoted expressing his suspicions over the sudden rise of the ‘Love Jihad’ trope and now the sudden focus on ‘ghar wapasi’. “Is this the sign of a Hindu rashtra in the making?” he reportedly asked TOI.

Ahead of bypolls to a dozen Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh and with Assembly elections coming up in two years’ time in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, this incident of reconversion cannot be seen as a stray incident. In any case, the Dharm Jagran Vibhag has already said it will launch mass awareness campaigns across Uttar Pradesh, especially in the tinderbox that is western UP.

How closely the BJP is involved with the issue of religious conversions and reconversions could be seen in Aligarh mayor and BJP leader Shakuntala Bharati’s comment to The Hindu in the aftermath of the Meerut religious conversion case, a woman described as having built her career fighting the so-called ‘love jihad’. “I have lost count of the incidents. But I have faced death to rescue our girls from the clutches of Muslims,” she told The Hindu.

The Dharma Jagran Vibhag representatives have also said candidly that they are “very active” in Agra, Aligarh, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar.

But there is more going on between the lines here than immediately apparent. The ‘love jihad’ issue is clearly a convenient and potent polarising force that will no doubt remain in the news until elections are safely past. But the ‘ghar wapasi’ is for Hindus — or precisely Dalits — who adopted Christianity as a way out of casteism.

A fragmentation of the Scheduled Caste vote is seen as one of the reasons for the complete rout of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party in the recent general elections. But Assembly constituencies are smaller and sub-caste cleavages may not suffice to defeat Dalit parties’ candidates. Mayawati has said she will not fielding candidates for the bypolls, which leaves the Sangh parivar with the simple task of wooing the Chamars, Valmikis, Pasis and other sub-castes with renewed vigour, to mop up Dalit votes. Of course, Uttar Pradesh will go to polls in 2017, and the BSP will be a major contender then. Rounding up more faithfuls for the Sangh parivar now is good, early planning for a tough contest then.

The ‘ghar wapasi’ in Aligarh is not the only instance. In late July, a mini-riot in Kanth town in Moradabad was not any Hindu-Muslim clash — it was a Dalit versus Muslim dispute over the use of a loudspeaker in a place of worship used by the Dalit community. As Firstpost had reported then, “The BJP’s attempt to bring the Dalits into the Hindutva fold also springs from the compulsions of assembly by-elections. The assembly constituency adjoining Kanth is Thakurdwara, which will soon have to elect an MLA in place of Sarvesh Kumar, who is now a Lok Sabha member. To magnify a local dispute is likely to yield rich electoral dividends.”

Moradabad MP Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh in fact said this to The Hindu in the aftermath of that riot: “It is not only about Dalits but the larger Hindu identity and about Hindu samaj. The Hindus in the vicinity of the village also need to be taken along because it is a matter of larger Hindu solidarity.”

For more proof of the BJP-BSP tussle, there’s the BSP MLC who BJP president Amit Shah reportedly wants to field as the BJP candidate against Mulayam Singh Yadav’s grand nephew Tej Pratap Singh Yadav in the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat that MUlayam vacated. Union Minister Rajnath Singh has also responded to Mayawati’s jibes about the RSS with a quick description of the Sangh’s abhorrence of caste and creed.

Dalits are a large percentage of the population of western Uttar Pradesh, and weakening the BSP’s hold on them works in the favour of the BJP’s apparent strategy to polarise the state sharply. No doubt, the removal of a cross from a church that a Dalit community used since the late 1990s is only the start of a new political campaign underway in the state.

– first post

NCM writes to MHA over hate speech

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

BJP revelry turns violentNew Delhi, September 21, 2014: Taking cognizance of complaints filed, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has written to the Home Ministry on instances of hate speeches being made by members of the ruling BJP. NCM also issued notice to the MP Government on Garba ban for Muslims after the call given by Usha Thakur – BJP MLA.

NCM Chairperson Naseem Ahmed wrote, “I am writing to you to express concern of the National Commission for Minorities at the spate of hate speeches and inflammatory remarks by public representatives that are aimed at disturbing the communal harmony and peace in the country.”

NCM wrote to the MHA advising MHA to restrain people in responsible positions like Sakshi Maharaj against whom civil rights activists Shahzad Poonawala had filed a complaint, for “making irresponsible statements creating disharmony.”

Poonawala had pleaded to the NCM to take up issue of hate speech with the MHA and Govt of India.

Pointing that the Commission has already passed a resolution in this regard on 1st Sep 2014, the NCM Chairperson urged, “The incidents are only increasing and we have received several petitions against such vitriolic utterances. These statements are being made by prominent members of political parties and of the Parliament and violate the spirit of our Constitution as well as the Indian Penal Code.”

The NCM Chairperson particularly mentioned about the comments of Sakshi Maharaj associating terrorism with Madrasas and with Muslims, derogatory comments on Muslim with regard to Garba celebrations by Ms Usha Thakur MLA Madhya Pradesh and unfounded and and extremely offensive comments about Muslims by Yogi Adityanath, MP regarding ‘love jihad’ and riots being engineered by the Muslims.

The NCM Chairperson particularly demanded assurance from the MHA that the Government will take appropriate action against any act or speech that violates the provisions of Indian Penal Code and the spirit of the Indian Constitution. “The Government must demonstrate its unwillingness to tolerate any speech or action that is likely to aggravate communal tensions in any part of the country,” he said.

– tcn

Saudi Arabia: Dozens of Christians ‘including women and children’ are arrested-Islamist police force

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Christians in IraqSaudi Arabia, September 15, 2014: Islamist police in Saudi Arabia have stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles, it has been reported.

The raid was the latest incident of a swingeing crackdown on religious minorities in Saudi Arabia by the country’s hard-line Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The 28 Christians were said to be worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji, when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since, raising concerns among human rights groups as to their whereabouts.

Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com: ‘Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy.

‘It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches.

‘This is enforced even though there are over two million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments.’

Activists are now calling on the U.S. to use its considerable influence in the region to help secure the release of the incarcerated Christians.

A spokesperson for the Saudi government claimed to have no knowledge of the arrests, according to Fox News.

But the English-language newspaper, The Saudi Gazette, as well as several Saudi Arabic-language news outlets, have reported on the arrests.

Arabic-language news channel, Akhbar 24, said the arrests came after the Kingdom’s religious police got a tip about a home-based church.

The report also reported that ‘distorted writings of the Bible were found and musical instruments, noting their referral to the jurisdictional institutions.’

At least 3.5 million Christians live in the Gulf Arab region, mostly Catholic workers from India and the Philippines.

In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, it is against the law for Muslims to abandon their faith, a practice known as apostasy. Proselytising for other religions or practising them openly is also illegal.

Judges have considerable leeway in how to interpret the kingdom’s Sharia code of Islamic law and are not bound by sentencing guidelines or a system of precedent. Both capital and corporal punishment are legal.

Last year King Abdullah, who has promoted limited reforms since coming to the throne in 2005, opened a centre for religious dialogue in Vienna that drew criticism because of Saudi Arabia’s own lack of religious freedom. In 2008 he sponsored an inter-faith conference in Spain.

– dailymail

Inside ISIS: Fighters promised ’72 eternal virgins in heaven’ while christian women raped as husbands beheaded – ex-member

September 26, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

ISISIraq, September 19, 2014: “An ex-ISIS member, who lived and worked with the militant Islamic terror group in Syria, gave a gory and seedy glimpse inside the group’s operation highlighting the brutal rape of Christian women after their husbands are beheaded and a promise of “72 eternal virgins in heaven” to fighters.

Speaking under the pseudonym Sherko Omer, the ex-ISIS member told yourmiddleeast.com in a report Friday that members of the terror group are promised eternal virgins and are allowed to have sex with non-Muslim women, even if they are married. Christian women, he explained, were sexually assaulted after their husbands were beheaded during the time he was with the group.

“We were promised women in heaven and on earth, too, based on IS jihadist teaching of the verses of some Suras of the holy book of Quran and hadiths by prophet Muhammad, all of which were explained through the Tafsir (explanation) by Islamic scholars like Ibn Majah, Bukhari and Ibn Kathir. We were told all non-Muslim women prisoners will be our wives and God wills it,” said Omer.

“In Islamic holy war you cannot kill enemy women and children under any circumstances, they can only be taken as prisoners. It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with the captive women even if jihadists are married,” he said.

“You can buy and sell these women, but for the children you have to raise them as home workers or teach them to become jihadists,” he continued before noting that some Muslim women gave up their bodies in sacrificial sex.

“There are Muslim women who willingly offer their bodies for IS jihadists and this is called ‘sex for jihad.’ They, too, will be compensated in heaven, according to IS. However, these women were mostly with the commanders. I did not see average jihadist fighters with these Muslim women,” he said.

Omer, who said he had intended to join the Syrian opposition when he left his Iraqi Kurdistan hometown last October, said he did not participate in any of the assaults on the women because he was a communication technician who was not involved with fighting.

“They believe it is permissible to sleep with women prisoners even against their will if they are infidels, non-Muslims and apostate women. This happened to Christian women in Al-Raqqa after their husbands were publically beheaded and I witnessed it. Now it is happening to Kurdish Yezidi women of Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said. “We were told that, as martyrs, we would have 72 eternal virgins in heaven and we can save dozens of our close relatives from hell too.”

He also explained that foreigners joining the group are seen as the most expendable because they lack the general skills and know-how to be effective fighters.

“I saw many foreign recruits who were put in the suicide squads, not because they were ‘great and God wanted it’ as IS commanders praised them in front of us, but basically because they were useless for IS, they spoke no Arabic, they weren’t good fighters and had no professional skills,” said Omer.

“They were brainwashed into the ‘women in heaven’ and those they could rape on earth before they eventually killed themselves. I am alive partly thanks to my qualifications,” he said.

“You have to remember that IS has been portrayed as an organization of gangs only, although this is evident what they do, but the political leadership pay unbelievable attention to education and educated recruits. But at the end of the day, good moral values are based on the way education and intelligence are being used,” he explained.

Omer recalled an incident when he tried to save a young Christian girl from being raped and almost lost his life for it.

“I was once told to go to a house to test some equipment to see if they can be useful for the technical and communication bureau. Once inside I realized it was a Christian home,” he said.

“I saw six jihadists demanding that a Christian woman and her daughter become their wives. The daughter was about 12 or 13 years old. I told the jihadists forcing women is forbidden in Islam and children can’t be touched under any circumstances. They loaded their guns in my face and told me to leave,” he explained.

“I immediately left to the local court that was based in a small house, but the judge was worse, he said I was wrong because 13-year-old girl is not considered a child, essentially because Prophet Muhammad married his wife, Aisha, when she was only 9 years old. He accused me of having poor faith in the practices of Prophet Muhammad for which I could have been detained and possibly punished with tough sentences, but my field commander soon arrived and saved me,” he said.

Omer explained that what he witnessed in Al-Raqqa made him realize he had to leave the group.

“I wanted to leave first week into my post in Al-Raqqa but I was a coward, scared of getting beheaded and did not know my way out. Unlike at the camp, IS jihadists acted as God in Al-Raqqa. They were rude, arrested and killed anybody for no real reason,” he said.

He said he found the courage to attempt an escape after seeing a Kurdish fighter beheaded.

“I decided to risk my life to escape after I witnessed a wounded captured Kurdish YPG fighter publically beheaded. He was about my age, but unlike me he was extremely brave,” said Omer.

“He spat on every jihadist around him. He shouted slogans about Kurdish freedom and Abdullah Ocalan. I had never seen anyone so brave in my life. His fingers were cut yet he shouted insults against the jihadists. He was finally beheaded from behind to suffer and salt was put on his half-cult neck to die in agony, but he did not give up until he painfully died,” he said.

“I felt very sick afterward and did not sleep for a week thinking I am either going to run away or kill myself; but thank God the chance came soon afterward in the city of Serekaniye,” he said.

In February, Omer said he was sent to fix some radios in Serekaniye when Kurdish fighters raided the ISIS camp.

“I fixed all the faulty equipment after I arrived in Serekaniye, but then they asked me to intercept and interpret YPG radio communications. YPG members spoke Kurmanji Kurdish and I spoke Sorani Kurdish, but I could’ve tried harder to accurately intercept and interpret YPG radios and track their next moves, but when I heard female fighters speaking in Kurdish over the radio I just couldn’t do it,” he said

“Nearly a week passed at the base and it was the YPG that attacked our campsite. I was lucky because I was at the last outpost faraway when YPG first attacked and I immediately surrendered after YPG sniper killed the two jihadists beside me,” he said.

“I shouted in Kurdish, they told me to go closer and get naked and after it was clear that I had no suicide belt, they accepted my surrender. It is true that I have physically escaped now, thanks to God and thanks to the YPG, but Al-Raqqa is mentally haunting me now because what I have witnessed is just pure horror,” he ended.

– christian post

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