ARTICLES AND COMMENTARY

IN THE NEWS

Israel Seeking To Nip Sinai-Based Terror Attack →

August 30, 2011

A cell of more than 10 terrorists is currently in the Sinai with plans to carry out an attack against Israel along its border with Egypt, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vinai said on Tuesday. "Islamic Jihad is trying for a long time to perpetrate the attacks from the Sinai and the of Id al-Fitr is a good time for attacks," Vilnai said during a visit to an Elbit Systems factory in Sderot in reference to the Muslim holiday which begins on Tuesday. Vilnai said that the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) were working in close cooperation to thwart the attack and that Israel was also coordinating with Egypt.
- The Jerusalem Post

Iran Wants to Expand Nuclear Cooperation With Russia →

August 30, 2011

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoon Abbasi announced that the country is willing to further develop its cooperation with Russia in building more nuclear power plants. Tehran has offered a proposal to Moscow on the building of new nuclear plants using Iranian-made nuclear fuel. Referring to the 'step by step' proposal of Russia to settle the standoff between Iran and the West, he said any nuclear proposal either step by step or all at once must guarantee Iran's nuclear rights.
- Fars News Agency

Burmese Lives Ruined In Thailand →

August 23, 2011

Ye worked for eight months on one boat. He was never paid for his work and forbidden to keep any cash of his own. Compared to Burma, whose government is often damned as repressive, he felt Thailand was even more like a prison. Once a worker boards a fishing boat, he said, there was often no escape. Finally, however, Ye was able to escape. He said he could never forgive the captain. He wanted all Burmese thinking of coming to Thailand to hear his story, so they could be spared the same fate. Sanda, a Christian Chin woman, was trafficked by a Mon couple to work at a construction site in Thailand, only to find herself working without pay in the fishing industry and sexually enslaved. "There is no law here," Sanda said. She does not want any more Burmese people to come to the Kingdom and suffer as she has.
- The Nation

Vietnamese Christians Savagely Beaten →

August 17, 2011

Sixteen men and women were severely beaten in a police attack against indigenous minority Christians in the central highlands of Vietnam this July. The youngest victim was a 13-year-old girl. Vietnam has a long-standing practice of harassing and arresting Christians who are unaffiliated with the government-sanctioned religious bodies in the nation. According to Scott Johnson, with the Montagnard Foundation, "The Vietnamese government has targeted indigenous Degar Montagnards for simply being members of Christian house churches in a long running policy designed to eliminate independent Christian house churches. Hundreds of Degar Montagnards remain in prison today, and in custody many prisoners are brutally tortured and even killed."
- International Christian Concern

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ARTICLES AND COMMENTARY

UN Blessed Palestinian State Will Solve Nothing - (Print)

The Palestinian Authority has prepared a chair for their intended seat at the United Nations – a blue chair embroidered with the words "Palestine's Right." The blue chair will be taken on an international tour as an effort to convince the world's countries that they should vote to recognize a Palestinian state this fall, regardless of what agreements the Palestinian Authority does or does not make with Israel.

An opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald on August 29 offers some carefully worded pro-Palestinian propaganda. Sonja Karkar writes:

"Israel's own unilateral move in declaring statehood after the UN's intention to partition historic Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state cannot be avoided. It underscores that Palestine was never a land without a people and that Israel's existence was imposed on Palestinians, robbing them of their homes and land and destroying their proud and millenniums-old society."

There have indeed been people in the Holy Land for millennia – a wide variety of people. Jews, Arabs, Syrians, nomadic herders have all had communities in the land for centuries. A variety of different powers, from the Romans to the Ottoman Turks, have controlled this part of the Middle East during the last two thousand years, but there has never been a Palestinian state run by "Palestinians."

There have been many societies in the Holy Land throughout the centuries, proud and otherwise. The people now called Palestinians sit on lands that prior to the Six Day War in 1967 were controlled by Egypt or Jordan. Karkar's portrayal of a single Palestinian people with a long proud history doesn't fit with the facts.

Now, after 44 years of butting heads and a perpetual impasse, the Palestinian Authority wants to circumvent negotiations with Israel. It seeks an end run around certain moves necessary to keep peace with the Jewish state –  things like rejecting terrorism and recognizing the State of Israel.  The PA is instead pushing to create a Palestinian state via an upcoming United Nations General Assembly vote in late September. A Security Council vote would be more binding, but the United States can veto decisions at the Security Council. 

Disaster's In The Air:
Some people expect a UN vote for a Palestinian state to settle the issue. That's not only naïve, but dangerous. Not only will there be no peace, but Israel anticipates immediate attacks on settlers in the West Bank if the vote goes through. The settlers are certain to fight back, causing the West Bank to explode in bloodshed. Israel security forces working in settlements are being armed with riot gear in advance of the September 20th debate on the issue.

Headed For Defeat?
Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, told the Foreign Ministry last week that Israel simply does not have the support to oppose the General Assembly resolution. The Palestinians have the diplomatic upper hand, and they only need a majority of votes – just 51 percent – to gain recognition.

Besides encouraging violence however, the General Assembly's vote will almost certainly fail to create a peaceable two-state solution. Israel will not give up its settlers or East Jerusalem just to please the United Nations. Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza will not suddenly affirm the existence of Israel and treat their neighbor with respect. When Israel moved settlers out of Gaza in 2005, the immediate result was an increase in rocket attacks over the border onto Israel. Without any true cooperation or peace agreements, the result of a Palestinian state created by vote is unrest and destruction.

Both Israel and the United States have urged the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has said the PA would agree once again to negotiate if Israel stops building settlements and uses the 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations. Neither of these things are likely to happen.

US President Barack Obama recognizes that "initiatives through the UN will not bring about the two-state solution and enduring peace, which both the parties and the US seek."  The US will discourage the declaration of a Palestinian state, but the General Assembly can still vote however it chooses.

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Crowds Recite Lord's Prayer Despite PA System Ban - (Print)

When the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened DeSoto County schools with legal action unless they stopped leading prayer before high school sports games, the parents and students of DeSoto County took over. Prayer may no longer be offered from the PA system before football games, but fans in the stands have started saying the Lord's Prayer themselves.

It started when the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) discovered that schools in DeSoto County, Mississippi sponsored prayer before sporting events, having prayer led from the loudspeaker. The organization contacted the DeSoto County school district in mid-August, informing its leadership that legal action would be taken if the school-sponsored pre-game prayers did not stop. DeSoto Superintendent Milton Kuykendall received a letter saying, "We ask that the school district commence an immediate investigation into the complaints alleged and take immediate action to stop any and all prayer occurring before any athletic events and graduation ceremonies."

The school district stopped the prayers coming from the PA system, but it did not stop "any and all prayer" because the residents of DeSoto County wanted to keep praying, and they have a right to. 

Rioters in London used online networking three weeks ago to join up and rampage across the city on a path of fiery destruction. Not a good thing. On the other hand, the population of DeSoto County used online networking to meet up and recite the Lord's Prayer together before football games. A DeSoto County 4 Prayer group quickly organized and parents and students wore t-shirts with the Lord's Prayer on the back. They went on prayer walks at the school before classes, and they prayed loudly in unison from the stands before the games started. The guy behind the PA system might have been forbidden to lead the pre-game prayer, but the people at the ball field said it anyway.

The FFRF may not have realized it would be setting a fire, and some residents see the whole ordeal as a blessing in disguise. "All they've done is increased the awareness, as Christians, of what we need to do to step it up and bring revival to DeSoto County," said parent Ronnie Pollard.

In the famous 1962 case of Abington School District v. Schempp, the US Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not lead students to pray. In the case of Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe (1999), the Supreme Court ruled that even student-led, student initiated prayer violated the 1st Amendment if it was authorized by the school. School-led prayer has been under constant attack since.

Students' freedoms of religion and speech do not end, however, when they walk onto school property. The people in the stands are free to pray – and pray out loud – as long as it's their idea and the school isn’t either encouraging or discouraging it.

"It should be a person's Constitutional right to pray if they want to pray," says resident Gary Frazier. "I think people from Wisconsin ought to mind their own business."

A Bad Taste:
Since beginning their assault on school-sponsored prayer in DeSoto County, the FFRF has reported receiving plenty of non-fan mail. Superintendent Kuykendall made a statement last week accusing the FFRF of seeking to make millions of dollars off the lawsuit it had threatened to bring against the county.

"We get a lot of crank mail and abuse from religious blogs," Gaylor said. "It's incredibly depraved, horrible language and grotesque sexual imagery, and we can put up with that but we won't put up with a public official trying to defame us."  The FFRF has sought a retraction from Kuykendall. 

Those who have written "depraved" letters should be ashamed.  If we claim to follow Christ, we should represent Him well by looking like Him and acting like Him, including in the way we approach those with whom we disagree.  We need to honor Christ in all we do.

Sweet Victory:
At the same time, the people of DeSoto are excellent to pray out loud in the stands to honor God before games, and we should take their efforts to heart.  They should be commended for their show of unity in standing up for religious freedom in America.  Parent Leigh Harris expressed the heart of many:  "It just brought tears to my eyes to see all those people together saying the Lord's Prayer."

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Remember The Burmese Christians - (Print)

When the Irish Christian band Bluetree sneaked into Burma (Myanmar) to play music to the Karen Christians there, the band members believed they were doing something dangerous. They did not appreciate until they got back into Thailand that they had come very close to being slaughtered.

Four percent of Burma's 53.4 million people are Christians, according to the CIA World Factbook. (Voice of the Martyrs believes 8.7 percent are Christian.) The exact numbers are hard to know, however, since much of the Burmese church faces daily danger. Religious freedom is on the books in Burma, but it is no secret that Christians are targeted and killed in this country torn by civil war.

The band Bluetree had done some singing in Thailand and had even started a ministry to rescue people from the sex trade.  Their time in Thailand inspired a song "God Of This City" that has since grown popular in America. Last year, the musicians had the opportunity to go into Burma and sing for Christians there. They would have to sneak in by a dry river bed in the middle of the night and bring along food, clothing, Bibles - and whiskey to bribe the militia that would otherwise attack the villages.

The trip in was successful, and after bribing the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army with food and alcohol, the musicians were allowed to enter a refugee camp and sing. They had just a short few hours to stay, though, because they could be executed if the Myanmar army showed up.  Before Bluetree started back to Thailand, though, the DKBA general wanted the musicians to play for him. (There's a hunger for something better even with that general.) And before they could get a song started, soldiers from the Myanmar army spotted them and began screaming up at the white men on the general's balcony.

"We were told later their general said we're not even going to waste our bullets with them, we're just going to slice their throats," lead singer Aaron Boyd said from his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland. "Bottom line was our guy, whatever he did, whatever he said, managed to calm the whole thing down."

Bluetree drove straight back to Thailand after that, and soon gave a concert to 20,000 Karen refugees there. One little 8-year-old girl pleaded with Boyd, "Please don't ever forget about me. Don't forget me."

We know that we take our freedoms for granted in the West. We are free to spread the Gospel on the radio or do baptisms in the local lake if we choose. And people are free to tell us to jump in the lake if they choose. The freedom to criticize the government, to worship without harassment, to be different without being considered a threat to one's country – this is a wonderful blessing.

Bluetree spent a single day in Burma. Millions of Christians (4 percent of 53.4 million is 2.14 million; 4 percent of 8.7 percent is 4.6 million) call Burma their home, and face danger every day for not conforming to the Buddhist military government's desire for one language, one ethnicity, and one religion. These precious people need to be remembered, along with that 8-year-old Karen child living in a Thai refugee camp. They are our brothers and sisters too, and they need prayer.

When we pray, God does great things, and He can continue to give safety to the missionaries – and occasional musical groups– that risk their lives to bring the Word of God into this suffering country.

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