Please Pray for Asia Bibi
Monday, July 28, 2014, 9:56 AM

101206ff68d51dc7393ddec436495735277ccf Please Pray for Asia BibiMany around the world rejoiced at the arrival in Rome last week of Mariam Ibrahim, accompanied by her husband and their two beautiful children.  Many of us were moved at seeing the family’s meeting with Pope Francis.  And while we rejoice that she and her family will be coming to the United States soon (her husband is an American citizen), we must remember that there are many who continue in chains for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  On these pages over the past several years, I have written about the plight of one such victim of anti-Christian persecution, Asia Bibi.  Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s notorious criminal code section 295(c), which prescribes the death penalty for “insulting” Mohammed and Islam.  She is a Roman Catholic rural farm worker and mother of five.  In June 2009, while working in the fields, she was sent to bring water for the other farm workers.  Some of the Moslem workers refused to drink the water she brought as they considered water touched by Christians to be “unclean.”  Her co-workers then complained to the authorities that she made derogatory comments about Mohammed.  What was the derogatory comment she purportedly made against Mohammed?  The Moslem women claimed Asia Bibi said: “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind.  What did your prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?”  Asia Bibi is illiterate, and is considered an uneducated woman, but she asked a deeply profound question.  Islam teaches that one cannot know and experience assurance of eternal salvation.  Of course, her hearers had no ready answer to her simple question.  But six days after this incident, a violent mob came to her family’s home, damaged it, and assaulted and beat her and members of her family.  In response, Pakistani police arrested her, and she spent more than one year in jail awaiting trial.  Finally, in November 2010, The Honorable Judge Muhammed Naveed Iqbal sentenced her to death by hanging, and he fined her the equivalent of $1,100, a large sum in rural Pakistan.  Her verdict was later upheld by the Lahore High Court.  Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari refused to pardon her after large demonstrations were held against her.  My readers may remember that several Pakistani government officials who publicly called for Asia Bibi’s release and the abolition of the Pakistan’s blasphemy law have been assassinated, including the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was murdered by his bodyguard.  Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was assassinated for speaking out on her behalf as well.  Moreover, each time that a Christian villager is accused of blasphemy, Christian neighbors are forced to flee the area out of fear that they are next in line to be accused of the same “crime.”

Asia Bibi’s case is now up for further appeal by the High Court of Lahore, Pakistan.  In fact, for the fifth time over a number of years, the hearing for her appeal didn’t happen.  No reasons are ever given for the delay, and no new hearing dates are set.  The excuses given for the delays have been varied; there have been sick judges and sick lawyers who couldn’t make it at the appointed day and hour.  As you can well imagine, the government fears the people if she is released, and the government further fears that financial donors from the international community will cut off or curtail foreign aid if she is executed.  Pakistan, an erstwhile ally of the United States in what used to be the war against terrorism, has received tens of billions of our tax dollars in foreign and military aid over just the past decade, and continues to receive large sums.  Thus, with the moral courage of Pontius Pilate, the High Court judges find every excuse not to give Asia Bibi her day in court.  And justice delayed is justice denied.

Mariam Ibrahim’s recent visit with His Holiness in Rome reminds me of a Christmas letter sent to Pope Francis by Asia Bibi last November.  She thanked Pope Francis and all the churches praying for her and credited the prayers of God’s people for her survival after more than four years in prison.  She wrote the following in pertinent part:

I am very grateful to all the churches that are praying for me and fighting for my freedom.  If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me.  I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible.  Only God will be able to free me.  Holy Father, I want for you to accept my best wishes for the New Year.  I know you pray for me with all your heart, and this gives me confidence that one day my freedom will be possible.

She expressed her desire to be in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to pray with Pope Francis for Christmas 2014.  Please pray for Asia Bibi and her family, and let us work together so that we can see her worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Rome later this year.



Mere Links 07.25.14
Friday, July 25, 2014, 10:00 AM

Professor Wins Lawsuit Protecting His Religious Freedom
The Keating Center

After seven years, Mike Adams won his lawsuit against University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). Professor Mike Adams, a criminology professor, sued UNCW in 2007 after he was discriminated against because of his conservative, Christian views.

Sudan Christian Woman Spared Death Sentence Meets Pope in Rome
Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times

Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman whose death sentence in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith set off an international protest, arrived in Rome on Thursday morning to a hero’s welcome and a private audience with Pope Francis.

10 Great Summer Reads for Catholics
Kevin D. Sullivan, OnFaith

From Thomas Merton to Shūsaku Endō, these enduring books encapsulate some of the best in religious writing.

Europe’s High Court Defends Marriage
John Paul Shimek, Aleteia

Talking heads on MSNBC and other networks contrasted the state of American liberalism with the perceived success of European progressivism, lamenting the American failure to move in Europe’s direction. Then, about one month later, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) lowered the boom on European progressives. And, the wind was taken out of the sails of American liberalism.



100 Days of Captivity for Nigerian Students
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 10:56 AM

MichelleObamaBringBackOurGirls 100 Days of Captivity for Nigerian StudentsJuly 24, 2014, is the 100th day of captivity for the remaining 219 teenage girls still held by Boko Haram terrorists.  On April 14, nearly 300 school girls were kidnapped from a school near Chibok in northeast Nigeria.  Approximately 57 students managed to flee shortly after they were captured when Boko Haram terrorists went to attack another village.  According to a mediator working with Boko Haram, two of the girls have died of “snake bites,” while another twenty are seriously ill.  Rallies to support the young women will take place today around the world.  There will also be a rally today at noon at the Nigerian embassy in Washington, D.C.  Among the invited speakers at the Washington, D.C., rally will be Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas.  Chibok and nearby villages are particular Boko Haram targets because they are enclaves of devout Christian believers in the predominantly Moslem northern Nigeria.  Further, the leader of Boko Haram released a video in which he mocked the #BringBackOurGirls campaign famously championed by Mrs. Obama and Secretary John F. Kerry’s Department of State.

Sadly, since April, international attention for the school girls has waned, and media reports indicate that the 219 students are being held captive in the Sambisa Forest, which is an area of thick jungle and open savannah, bordering on sand dunes at the edge of the Sahara Desert.  There have been reported sightings of the girls and their captors in neighboring Cameroon and Chad as well.  Adding further tragedy to the kidnappings, eleven parents have died since the mass kidnapping.  Seven of the girls’ fathers were among 51 killed earlier this month after another attack by Boko Haram in the village of Kautakari.  Further, at least four more parents have died of heart failure and other illnesses blamed on the trauma caused by the kidnapping.  The British Daily Mail reported that community leader, Pogu Bitrus, said one father of two of the kidnapped girls simply went into a coma-like condition, where he repeated the names of his daughters until he eventually died.  Every village in the area of Chibok has been attacked and ransacked, along with all the villages bordering Cameroon.  The Boko Haram attacks continue despite the fact the Nigerian military has placed the area under a state of emergency since May 2013.  Although the Nigerian military presence has increased dramatically in the area, soldiers often refuse to deploy to villages under attack even when there are advanced warnings, which is typically the case.  In addition, transportation in the area is hampered because the frequent Boko Haram attacks have left the roads impassable with burned-out automobiles and other debris.

On this 100th day of the captivity of the school girls, please remember to pray for their release, and to pray for their families who are suffering greatly.  Please also pray for their persecutors that they might turn from their wickedness, and come to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.



Mere Links 07.24.14
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 12:01 AM

Five Rules for Consoling the Dying
Russell E. Saltzman, First Things

There are some things that should never be said to the dying. I’ve never bothered developing a comprehensive “no-no” list but years of parish ministry have attuned me to the particularly egregious.

The Problem With Britain’s Latest Suicide Bill
Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, Aleteia

Suicide and killing people are two things that the Church has always declared to be wrong. It has therefore been of considerable interest in the UK this last week that a proposed law was put forward for debate which would authorize assistance with both.

Islam’s Religious Exemption From Criticism
William Kilpatrick, Crisis Magazine

udging from their behavior, most policymakers seem heavily invested in Islam’s survival. Their reasoning goes roughly as follows: Islam is a religion; religion is a stabilizing force in society; therefore, the flourishing of Islam is vital to the stability of the Muslim world. Hence, the consensus view is (and has been for a long time) that it is desirable to prop up Islam and provide bailouts when needed.

What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Birth Control’
Karen Swallow Prior, Christianity Today

Meaningful debate requires us to define the terms of discussion.



Mere Links 07.23.14
Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 10:00 AM

Raise Your Voice for Religious Liberty
Jennifer A. Marshall, The Gospel Coalition

The backlash against simply participating in civil discourse about an important topic of public concern is alarming.

A Line Crossed in the Middle East
Mark Movsesian, First Things

What the end of Christianity in Mosul means for Christians everywhere.

Hobby Lobby and Employment Discrimination
USCCB, Crisis Magazine

To dismiss concerns about religious freedom in a misguided attempt to address unjust discrimination in the workplace is not to advance justice and tolerance. Instead, it stands as an affront to basic human rights and the importance of religion in society.

George Whitefield at 300
Credo Magazine

We live in a day when those in the church want to have their ears tickled. We do not want a sermon, but a “talk.” “Don’t get preachy, preacher!” is the mantra of many church goers today.



Mere Links 07.22.14
Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 10:00 AM

ISIS to Christians in Mosul: convert, pay or die
CNN

Just days after the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said they killed hundreds of Syrians, dozens of Iraqi Christian families are now fleeing the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul, hoping to avoid a similar fate.

Europe Moves to Outlaw Organ Trafficking Worldwide
Matthew Robertson, Epoch Times

An official European representative body has promulgated a new convention outlawing the trafficking in human organs, calling on all countries to become signatories to it and criminalize the practice and punish offenders.

Uncle Sam Eavesdropping Outside the Confessional
Aaron Taylor, First Things

The state of Louisiana may be about to go where even rabidly anti-Catholic England in the seventeenth century dared not.

The Parent Trap
Ross Douthat, New York Times

The pattern — a “criminalization of parenthood,” in the words of The Washington Post’s Radley Balko — still looks slightly nightmarish, and there are forces at work here that we should recognize, name and resist.



Stratford Caldecott, R.I.P.
Monday, July 21, 2014, 10:41 AM

I came to Stratford’s work too late, but better late than never. He was one of the few men since Russell Kirk who really knew what a liberal education was all about, and who could show what he saw to others.

There are a few people in the cold Gobi Desert of academe who hold to something like a liberal education because they see its political utility, and they are right to believe that a healthy civilization requires the remembrance of what the wisest among us have had to say about the human condition. They read Thucydides, Petrarch, and Marcus Aurelius for profit.

Stratford Caldecott transcends them all, because, unlike them, he was in love with beauty and goodness, and so he could read and teach others to read Cicero not so much to learn about wise political action, as to learn about being human—or as Kirk puts it, being virtuous, being a man. He would never say that we should read history lest we repeat it, but that we should immerse ourselves in the wonder of creation and of that human creation we call art, so that we might lean towards the divine, as flowers lean towards the sun. In this sense he stands with Plato, Sidney, Johnson, Coleridge, Ruskin, Eliot, Lewis, and Kirk; a worthy battalion, against all the dreary utilitarians who have transformed our schools into ghastly and largely incompetent training centers.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat super eum.

—Anthony Esolen



Touchstone published three of his essays. The first, Speaking the Truths Only the Imagination May Grasp, had been planned as lead essay in a new volume of classic Touchstone articles, Creed & Culture II. Caldecott was the author of many books; his last: Not As the World Gives.



The Islamic State Caliphate Establishes “Justice”
Monday, July 21, 2014, 10:28 AM

Islamic State, the radical Islamist militants and al Qaeda offshoot, seeks to establish an Islamic “caliphate” that straddles Syria and Iraq, at least for the time being.  As part of their governance, they impose a 7th century view of Islam in society.  In the northern Syrian town of Tabaqa in the province of Raqa, the jihadists accused and convicted a woman of adultery, and stoned her to death last Thursday.  The stoning took place in a public square in the town’s market area.  The unnamed woman was reportedly in her thirties, and was sentenced to death by a “religious” court.  The woman’s family did not know that the sentence was going to be carried out.  Many residents are terrified of the Islamic State jihadists, but fear the consequences of reacting to and criticizing their harsh methods.

In the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, now also controlled by the jihadists, the Islamists have issued an ultimatum to the few remaining Christians to either convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, the infamous “jizya,” or be executed.  (Interestingly the status of Christians as dhimmis was abolished during the Ottoman reforms in the mid-19th century.)  The order went into effect this past Saturday.  The order said Christians who remain in the “caliphate” must agree to abide by terms of a “dhimma” contract.  Under the status of dhimmitude, non-Moslems who were either Christians or Jews were “protected” in Moslem lands in return for a special tax known as “jizya.”  (Think of it as a protection racket.)  The announcement by the jihadists said that Christians were offered “three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.”  A resident of Mosul said that the statement, published in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, was issued in the name of the Islamic State and distributed last Thursday, and read in mosques on Friday and broadcast through automobile loudspeakers.  A Saturday deadline was set for Christians who did not want to stay under those terms “to leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate.”  The terms were announced by the jihadist group leader Caliph Ibrahim, or as he was formerly known, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Fewer than ten years ago, the city of Mosul had more than 100,000 Christians living in the city, but today, estimates are that there are fewer than 200 Christians.

Some of my readers may be unaware that the Koran teaches Moslems not to make friends or allies with Jews and Christians (Koran 5:51), and that Moslems are to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission” (Koran 9:29), and to kill the disbelievers wherever Moslems find them (Koran 2:191).  The Koran further teaches that all those who disbelieve in Islam shall go to hell (Koran 5:10), even though Moslems are given no assurance of eternal life in Islam.  Further, all non-Moslems are najis (broadly defined as filthy and impure) (Koran 9:28), and Moslems are ordered to fight non-Moslems until no other religion except Islam is left (Koran 2:193).  Of course, much more could be said to show that Islam is not really a religion of peace notwithstanding the assertions of some in the United States and other Western nations.  Sadly, I don’t expect to hear President Obama or Secretary of State John F. Kerry say anything to oppose the horrors of jihadist rule in the pretend caliphate.  It is stunning to me that they don’t, but then again, perhaps they don’t see Islamist rule negatively.  The irony is that President Obama and his supporters say nice things about Islam and refuse to criticize Islamists other than in the most inane twitters (“Bring Back Our Girls”).  Yet they seem quite blind to the true desires of what some Moslems, including the jihadists, want: world domination and the destruction of everything you and I believe and hold dear.

Jihadists have no problem killing any of us (in the same gruesome way that they did with Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl), raping our wives and daughters, and then stoning them to death, and then taking our children from us for not raising them in their special way.  What will the leftists and secularists do when Islamists tell them to pay up, get out, or get killed?  I am not convinced that President Obama cares, as he might be focused on enjoying his holiday in Martha’s Vineyard in August.  It must be lovely though to be there to get away from the cares of a deeply fallen and dangerous world.  For our part, please continue to pray for the Christians throughout the Middle East, and for the repentance of the jihadists.



Mere Links 07.18.14
Friday, July 18, 2014, 9:25 AM

Why I’m Against United Methodist Schism
Mark Tooley, Juicy Ecumenism

Some evangelical United Methodist friends have suggested our denomination possibly enact a formal division between conservatives and liberals.

Sexual Assault: What Does the Hook-Up Culture Have To Do with It?
Adelaide Mena and Caitlin Seery La Ruffa, Public Discourse

The sexual assault epidemic on college campuses is created, in part, by the effects of the hook-up culture.

Hearings on S. 1696: The Planned Parenthood Protection Act
Susan E. Wills, Aleteia

Undermining 40 years of abortion regulation in one easy bill.

Help Your Kids Say ‘No’ to Porn
Jen Wilkin, The Gospel Coalition

We may stall on the sex talk, but the world will not.



Mere Links 07.17.14
Thursday, July 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

Boko Haram Shows No Mercy in Nigeria, Wrecking Churches, Homes, Lives
Robyn Dixon, L.A. Times

When Boko Haram invaded her village last year, the Islamists extremists burned the churches, destroyed Bibles and photographs and forced Hamatu Juwanda to renounce Christianity.

Senate Considering Bill That Could Wipe Out Many State Pro-Life Laws
Sarah Torre, The Daily Signal

A sweeping bill that could eliminate many commonsense state laws protecting women from the harms of abortion was considered in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.

The Progressive Appeal to an Imaginary Calendar
Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition

There’s no reason to assume that the position we hold to is right because it’s Tuesday and not Monday. And yet, that’s the kind of ”appeal to the calendar” we often witness in popular progressive circles.

What You Should Know About the Border Crisis
Joe Carter, Acton Institute

In 2013 the federal government housed about 25,000 minors who were going through deportation proceedings. This year, that number is expected to rise to over 60,000. There has also been an increase in the number of UAC who are girls and the number of UAC who are under the age of 13


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