Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Up to America, Again: No Nukes In Teheran

Time's passed for alternate measures

Daniel Pipes notes Europe's continued dithering and Teheran's hardening resolve to go nuclear. Evidence for the latter: "Hostile statements provoking the West"; "a mood of messianism in the upper reaches of the government"; and Iran's "urgent nuclear program."

"A focused, defiant, and determined Tehran contrasts with the muddled, feckless Russians, Arabs, Europeans, and Americans. A half year ago, a concerted external effort could still have prompted effective pressure from within Iranian society to halt the nuclear program, but that possibility now appears defunct. As the powers have mumbled, shuffled, and procrastinated, Iranians see their leadership effectively permitted to barrel ahead."

Three non-war alternatives are now too late for success: "threatening an economic embargo, rewarding Tehran for suspending its nuclear program, or helping Iranian anti-regime militias invade the country."

Thus the "key decision – war or acquiescence – will take place in Washington, not in New York, Vienna, or Tehran. (Or Tel Aviv.) The critical moment will arrive when the president of the United States confronts the choice whether or not to permit the Islamic Republic of Iran to acquire the Bomb. The timetable of the Iranian nuclear program being murky, that might be either George W. Bush or his successor."

Pipes' analysis confirms the point of my post Oct. 3, 2006. Barring a providential or wholly miraculous intervention, if Teheran shall not have the Bomb, expect the US to stop its nuclear ambition by force. And yet another US stop along the Axis of Evil. (Despite the scoffing since the President named the Axis, events have confirmed that he is right.)

"They Voted": Why United 93 Passengers Foiled Islamist Hijacking 9/11

Passionate Eloquence Probes "The Heart of American Values"

Hear and share a compact, eloquent expression of what America is all about in Gary Bauer's recent speech (choose 10/30/2006) at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. One of the finest civic speeches I've heard in years that should be anthologized for the future.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Belarus: Update on New Life Church Hunger Strike

By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance - Religious Liberty News & Analysis

The purpose of this brief posting is to update the situation in New Life Church, Minsk, Belarus and to provide resources to enable informed advocacy and prayer.

There are presently 119 Protestants on hunger strike. Around 30 of them are commencing their fourth week without food. This is courageous commitment in the extreme, but it is not glamorous. These believers are in great need of the LORD's intervention. (Proverbs 21:1, and 29:26). For background, see "Belarus: New Life Church Hunger Strike" WEA RLC New &
Analysis, 17 October 2006 (Link 1).


On Saturday 21 October some 2,000 Protestants rallied publicly in Bangalore Square, Minsk (with government permission) for an end to religious repression. This was a courageous and hugely significant public rally. (Photos - http://www.charter97.org/eng/news/2006/10/23/protestant)


Alysksandr Milinkevich [democratic leader] has visited the hunger strikers in the New Life Church. He encouraged the believers and expressed great admiration for their faith and courage. "I see very strong and courageous people here, who have a deep faith in God, who believe in justice. These people are invincible, and they are fighting for the simplest right, the right for freedom of worship. It is one of the most important rights of a human. I greatly respect these people, I wish them courage, I wish them not to lose health in this struggle. I know that God is with those who are here, and God wouldn't leave them." (Link 2)


According to Forum 18, President Lukashenka reportedly indicated a desire to provide assistance to the church. His aide for ideology issued a "strong recommendation" to New Life's Pastor, Vyacheslav Goncharenko, that the church make a fresh appeal to the Higher Economic Court. New Life church submitted a fresh appeal to the court on 18 October. However, the believers vowed to continue their hunger strike saying the protest will not end until the church's land and building are legally returned and the church's right to worship in its own property is
officially, legally acknowledged. (Link 3)

On 25 October the church received a letter from the Supreme Economic Court informing them that their pastor faces a massive fine for non-compliance of earlier court rulings. Charter 97 comments, "The Supreme Economic Court has fallen short of Protestants' expectations." The following day, when relatives of two of the New Life hunger strikers attempted to meet with Deputy Director of The Minsk Mayor Mr Michael Titenkov, Svetlana Matskevich, wife of hunger striker Vladimir Matskevich, was forcefully detained by police and taken to the Moscow District Police Station of Minsk for identification.


Back on 18 October, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published a piece by Daisy Sindelar on Belarus' various hunger strikes. Sindelar writes, "Hernan Reyes, who oversees prisoner medical issues for the International Committee of the Red Cross, says determined strikers want to stay alive as long as they can.

"The longer they fast, the rationale goes, the more extreme their suffering -- and the more powerful their message. It only takes a few weeks for the physical pain of a fast to become profound.

"'You don't feel hunger after a few days because of the ketosis. You have ketones in your bloodstream, which actually stamp out sensations of hunger as we understand it,' Reyes says. 'But of course there are other sensations. After a couple of weeks you'll have what we call nystagmus, which means that you have these uncontrolled rapid eye movements which give you a feeling of dizziness or vertigo, and you feel like you just go off a carousel that's been spinning around very fast. And it's extremely unpleasant. People throw up, they can no longer drink their water. And this is definitely one phase of the hunger strike which all hunger strikers who reach it do remember.'

"That phase is rapidly approaching for the more than 150 Protestant believers in Belarus." (Link 4)

On 23 October volunteer doctors from the Union of Evangelic Baptist Christians recommended that Natallya Ivanova (60) end her fast because she was suffering acute cardiovascular insufficiency. Natallya was rushed to hospital on 24 October, seriously weakened and without a pulse.

On 26 October, Volha Kryshneva (50) was admitted to the intensive care unit of the regional hospital in Baraulyany, Minsk region with heart problems. She had been without food for 21 days. Olga Nikonova (48) was hospitalised to the 4th Clinic Hospital on 26 October with critical heart weakness.

New Life church website (http://www.newlife.by/ ) is being continuously updated by New Life Church Youth Press Centre, which was founded just recently by New Life youths in response to the hunger strike. It is an excellent source of information, photographs, stories and links.

A 23 October report by CBN reporter Gailon Totheroh, "Belarus Christians Fast for Freedom" comes with a video and Totheroh's blog that includes information and addresses for advocacy.

Elizabeth Kendal

1) Belarus: New Life church hunger strike. 17 October 2006 World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

2) Alyaksandr Milinkevich Met Protestants on Hunger Strike 24 Oct 2006 http://www.charter97.org/eng/news/2006/10/24/am

3) BELARUS: Government to make U-turn on charismatic church?
By Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service. 20 October 2006

4) Belarus: Are Hunger Strikes Losing Their Power To Persuade?
By Daisy Sindelar, RFE/RL 19 Oct 2006
**WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis**

Please feel free to pass this along to others giving attribution to:
"World Evangelical Alliance - Religious Liberty News & Analysis."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Merry Christmas": Gifts That Give Twice

Visit these sites to give gifts that should please your recipients and will help the oppressed Christians who created them:

Christian Freedom International

Other sites to follow soon.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

To the Pope: Open Letter from Muslim Scholar-Leaders

In Islamica Magazine Muslim scholars and leaders respond in an open letter to Pope Benedict's comments about Islam in his 12 September 2006 address at the University of Regensburg. Religion Today Summaries comments:
"All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented by the signatories, including a woman scholar. In this respect the letter is unique in the history of interfaith relations. The letter was sent, in a spirit of goodwill, to respond to some of the remarks made by the Pope during his lecture at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles the main substantive issues raised in his treatment of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an “educated Persian”, including reason and faith; forced conversion; “jihad” vs. “holy war”; and the relationship between Christianity and Islam."

My comments soon . . .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Act Today to Stop Persecution of New Life (Pentecostal) Church, Minsk, Belarus

Members of New Life Church are joined in an outdoor rally 21 October by 2000 residents of Minsk and numerous other towns of Belarus, as well as by Christians from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. New Life members have decided to start legislative work with participation of representatives of interested governmental bodies and religious organizations to overturn the repressive 2002 legislation that limits religious freedom. I believe we are witnessing yet another people-power movement toward widespread civil freedom in another former Soviet republic. May God grant them full success!

See What God Can Do with Your Voice

Goal: 100 faxed letters to Belarus ambassador this week

One appeal for each ten members of New Life Church

1. Read the October 17 report (updates here). See the PowerPoint presentation of the church founded in 1992 by the son of an imprisoned Pentecostal pastor. Then, below, see the sample letter to the Belarus ambassador.
2. Pray for God’s victory through this persecution, and then
3. Write and fax your letter today: (202) 986-1805.
4. Copy me with your letter, or simply tell me you’ve sent it. Click on the e-mail (envelope) icon at the bottom of the blog to respond. I will update the blog as results are reported.

Thank you for joining this effort to advance religious freedom and the gospel with your prayer and letter of protest and appeal. Today your voice counts more than ever before: Davids are defeating Goliaths.


October 17, 2006

The Honorable Mikhail Khvostov
Ambassador, Respublika Byelarus'
1619 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
TEL: (202) 986-1604
FAX: (202) 986-1805

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I wish your country much prosperity, peace, and freedom.

However, I have learned how unjustly your government treats the New Life Church of Minsk; and I am so deeply disturbed that I am writing to you and – until your government stops its injustice – seeking to swell a worldwide corps of eyes and voices to show the world how Respublika Byelarus’, a United Nations member, systematically defies its obligation to honor religious freedom, as expressed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948): namely,

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one's belief or religion
The right to join together and express one's belief.

I send with this letter a report by the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (17 October 2006). It documents these injustices of your government:

· continuously denying New Life Church’s (NLC) attempts to register with the state
· obstructing NLC’s efforts to rent a meeting place
· harassing NLC’s renovation and use of its building to meet for worship
· for Article-18-protected religious activities, fining Pastor Goncharenko multiple times and threatening church administrator Yurevich with prosecution
· refusing NLC’s request to change its building’s official designation
· forcing unjust sale of NLC’s property at about 1/35th of its true value
· denying doctors’ and nurses’ visits to hunger strikers in NLC.

As you know, starting Friday, 6 October, and continuing into an eleventh day today, a growing number of productive Belarus citizens who are also members of NLC have moved into its house of worship and are protesting these government injustices through a determined hunger strike. They are successfully focusing world attention on this tragic fact: Respublika Byelarus’ denies its citizens the universal right of religious freedom.

Mr. Ambassador, please appeal to your government to stop the injustice immediately and to demonstrate with consistent public actions that it sincerely promotes religious freedom and cooperates with – rather than hinders – the religious activities of NLC. If it does not begin doing justice in these matters, I and many like me will increase our efforts to publicize worldwide your government’s injustice; and Respublika Byelarus’ will receive much negative attention. But if your government will promote religious freedom and cooperate with NLC, I and many like me will be happy to help Byelarus receive positive attention worldwide.

As a Christian, I know that the leaders and members of NLC seek only the good of your country. Our faith teaches us to respect our leaders and to pray for them. New Life Church is no threat to any government that seeks to do justice and to serve the good of its citizens. If your government will cooperate with NLC, it will see what benefit this church will bring to Minsk and even to the country as a whole.

My wish for your country’s prosperity, peace, and freedom is sincere. But it can be fulfilled only as your government treats NLC and other religious bodies justly – that is, through sincerely respecting their freedom to believe, worship, and witness to their faith without government opposition.


Rev. Mark E. Roberts, Ph.D. †
Publisher, Word & Spirit Press

Monday, October 16, 2006

UNM Poll: Teaching Leans Left

University of New Mexico student newspaper, Daily Lobo, today publishes on-going results of an Internet-reader-response poll about the politics of university faculty. No surprise about the leftward slant; what surprises me is that responses by UNM students today corroborate its reality:

22% "Yes, as a conservative, I feel my freedom of speech is limited."
39% "Yes, certain facts are presented with a leftist slant."
39% "No, politics have never clouded the facts in my classes."
0% "No, professors are not liberal enough."

(The poll is ongoing as of 17 October, and response percentages have changed.)

Good prima facie evidence for the need for some genuine viewpoint diversity on the UNM faculty, wouldn't you say? Not only at UNM, but at American universities generally. Thomas Sowell reports that at Stanford, his home as a Fellow of the Hoover Institution, "the faculty includes 275 registered Democrats and 36 registered Republicans. . . . Such ratios are not uncommon at other universities -- despite all the rhetoric about "diversity." Only physical diversity seems to matter."

Taxis Drive under Constitution, not Sharia

Daniel Pipes, source of accurate information and analysis about the Middle East and relations between Islam and the world, reports that Muslim taxi drivers who refused to carry passengers carrying alcoholic drinks are not getting their way with the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: "Islamists need to understand that the Constitution rules in the United States, not Shari'a, and Americans will vigorously ensure that it continues to do so."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Update Refutes This Claim: Muslim Doctor Kills Wife for Failing to Prevent Daughter's Conversion

On 13 October 2006, WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis issued a posting entitled "Australia: Girl's conversion results in mother's death".

That story needs to be updated.

In summary, Australian media reported that on 9 October a 17-year-old girl named Kaihana Hussain was attacked with a knife by her father, Dr Mohammed Hussain, after she reiterated her commitment to convert from Islam toChristianity. According to the reports, Kaihana's mother was fatally stabbed when she tried to intervene, and her father attempted to kill himself afterKaihana escaped the apartment. Police confirmed at the time that Kaihana was not a suspect. (Link 1)

Dr Hussain was hospitalised in a critical condition and put in an induced coma. It has only been very recently that investigative police have been able to speak with Dr Hussain. He alleges that Kaihana stabbed her mother to death and attempted to murder him because they disapproved of her behaviour and her unsuitable boy-friend.

Kaihana was subsequently arrested. She faced the Southport Magistrates Court on 7 November where she was charged with murder and attempted murder. She did not speak and no plea was entered. Kaihana Hussain is remanded in custody until her trial which has been slated for 22 May 2007. No further comment can be made as the matter is under police investigation. More details can be found at Link 2.

Anyone who has posted WEA RLC's 13 October release to their website should remove it. Thank you.


1) HERALD SUN. Islam row behind mum's death. 11 October 2006
Mother killed after teen rejects IslamSchool Death Link. 12 Oct 2006

) Girl on murder charge. 7 Nov 2006

[At the request of the WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis, on 8 November 2006, I deleted the rest of this post.]

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Evangelicals, culture, politics

A Third Way?

James K. A. Smith puts Greg Boyd's The Myth of A Christian Nation firmly in the pietistic half of a dichotomy, opposed by triumphalism. Knowing the Pentecostal background of both Boyd and Smith, I'm pleased that both aim their admirable intellectual and theological resources on the topic of Christian faith and its relation to culture, politics being a key sphere within culture. And I happily side with Smith: "[C]an't we see in-breakings of the coming kingdom here and now, better in some places than others?" Surely the reign of (confessedly fallen) democracy in South Korea at least approximates the reign of God more than life under Kim Jong-il's tyranny in the north. If not, why should people of faith ever concern themselves with" speaking truth to power" (a phrase I first heard from a Quaker friend) -- unless only to pronounce judgment without mercy or hope for redemption.

But Smith joins "Constantinianism" with "triumphalism" without remainder, rejecting both it and pietism, while calling for a third way. But given the dichotomy, Constantinianism holds out more hope for correction -- righteous restraint in its agenda of this-worldly engagement -- than does a pietism that identifies spirituality with disengagement. In fact, Robert Louis Wilken's review of recent works on Constantine urges that within earliest Constantinianism, Lactantius, the Latin apologist and contemporary of the emperor, establishes the basic political and ethical argument for freedom of religion that, refined for 1500 years, constitutes a core value of the secularized West:

Lactantius’ Institutes deals with a grab bag of theological and moral topics, but at places in the work one can see that he had an additional agenda: he wished to deprive Roman authorities of a philosophical and legal justification for the persecution of Christians by appealing to their own ideals of toleration, which they had abandoned in this case. Lactantius moved beyond the usual apologetic gambits to offer a positive argument as to why religion of any sort cannot be coerced. Religion, says Lactantius, has to do with love of God and purity of mind, neither of which can be compelled. “Why should a god love a person who does not feel love in return?” he asks. Religion cannot be imposed on someone, it can only be promoted by “words,” i.e., by persuasion, for it has to do with an interior disposition, and must be “voluntary.” “Nothing,” he writes, “requires freedom of the will as religion.”

Whatever the excesses of Constantinianism -- and they should not be minimized -- Wilken argues that early on Roman society accommodated to the church far more than the church accommodated (read "compromised") to pagan society.

So the third way Smith calls for may already have been occupying the world stage for centuries: a limited Constantinianism that expresses kingdom Spirit through earthly structures in a dialectical journey toward Zion, toward the coming down of the heavenly city to earth (Rev. 21:2 -- 10).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Must America Go It (nearly) Alone?

Bat Ye'or knows Islamism's global threat -- and Europe's collusion

Bat Ye'or is the world's foremost authority on dhimmitude, that humiliating, second-class status into which all non-Muslims are put when Islam governs through shariah. Her latest studies include Islam and Dhimmitude. Where Civilizations Collide and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. The following excerpt concludes her 2004 interview with FrontPage magazine, in which she foresees America and Israel increasingly isolated from, even opposed by, the European Union, even in the war against Islamist terror.

FP: Is there any optimism that we can have for Europe? How about to win this war against Islamism?

Bat Ye'or: Maybe the recent developments revealing France's failed policy and the horrendous ordeals of children and parents in
Ossetia will induce Europeans to bring their politicians and media to accountability. The war against a global jihadist terrorism can be won only if the civilized world is united against barbarity. Until now European democracies supported Arafat, the initiator of jihadist terrorism, hostage-taking and Islamikazes. The war will be won if we name it, if we face it, if we recognize that it obeys specific rules of Islamic war that are not ours; and if democracies and Muslim modernists stop justifying these acts against other countries. The policy of collusion and support for terrorists in order to gain self-protection is a delusion. [emphasis added]

Sharansky's Town-Square Test

Identifying Genuine, Peace-Promoting Democracy

I was stirred by President Bush’s identifying the advance of liberty as "the mission that created our Nation" and “the best hope for peace in our world" in his Second Inaugural Address. Yet is another of his firm beliefs true: namely, that free -- that is, democratic -- nations do not fight each other? The electoral victory of Islamofascists such as Hamas in Palestine does not promise peace with its democratic neighbor Israel; and the potential for electoral victory by similarly anti-Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq makes me wonder if freedom as “democracy” by itself guarantees international stability in any way. If a nation elects a leader with the vile anti-Semitism of Iran’s Ahmadinejad, why should Tel Aviv sleep peacefully?

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and tireless agitator for global human rights, addresses precisely this concern in his June 2006 inaugural Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom Lecture “Is Freedom for Everyone?”. His key point? “Elections Do Not Democracy Make.”
In America, I came here to [Washington], to this White House to discuss with the Vice President and with everybody who wanted to listen that you cannot start democratic reforms with elections. You can have elections, but they will have nothing to do with the democracy. Democracy is not elections; democracy is free elections and free society. The test of the democratic state is not elections; there are elections in every dictatorship. The test of dem­ocratic states is the town square test, where you can go to this square to express your views and you will not be punished for it. Palestinians [in the recent] elec­tions had to choose between a hated corrupt dicta­torship [Arafat’s], a mafia which was taking from them protection money for everything on one hand, and a few honest terrorists [Hamas] who wanted to kill a lot of Jews but who were taking care of the weak and poor on the other hand.

Other key points: While President Bush rightly promotes universal democratic freedom, US foreign policy simultaneously undermines the goal whenever it props up tyrannies and fails to support dissidents, who are themselves the key to regime change. Examples: past support of Arafat in Palestine, which paved the road for the present Hamas victory; continuing support for the tribal dynasty of Saudi Arabia and the injustices of Mubarak’s Egypt, which discourage reform leading to genuine democracy; and neglect of dissidents in Iran while appeasing the ayatollahs:
Iran is a unique example of where on one hand you have this awful regime which now is threatening to black­mail all the world with nuclear bombs, and on the other hand, a country where in one generation, a country of true believers of overwhelming sup­port to this regime turned into a country of dou­ble thinkers, of people who don’t accept this situation. And they started expressing it. The opposition movement in Iran is not a dissident here, a dissident there. It’s a powerful movement of different trade unions, of student organizations, and of women’s organizations who started two years ago to speak loudly and openly and appeal to the free world to support them, saying, “We are your allies, not the ayatollahs.”

. . . .

[Yet this] movement in Iran . . . is receiving almost no support. Not only is it receiv­ing almost no support, but the America which took such a strong position on Iran at the last moment declared that they have new proposals for the aya­tollahs and, in fact, by starting this new page, undermined immediately the inner strength of [its] position. I am saying this with pain, because I have great admiration for the President. When I met him I saw how deeply he believes in these ideas of promoting independent democracy. But when I look at the policies of the United States of America at this moment toward Iran, I don’t see any differ­ence with the policy of the previous administration toward North Korea. And that administration had a very different philosophy. But suddenly, take their approach to North Korea and this approach to Iran and it proves the same.

Sharansky concludes:
The democratic agenda is in danger and I believe of all the reasons, first of all it is in danger because President Bush is very lonely in his struggle. You know, the fact that he has so few allies overseas is bad; but the fact that he has so few allies in Washington is much worse.

Of course, dissidents are always lonely. But now, in this confrontation between the world of freedom and the world of terror, it is crucial that the Presi­dent of the United States will not be alone on this. But second, to stay the course is very difficult, it’s very important. Before we start saying the demo­cratic agenda failed, let’s first sincerely try this agen­da. And then we’ll see whether it will fail or not.

I believe it will win.

(See also the FrontPage interview with Sharansky.)