The Prophet Muhammad’s order to protect Christians

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The inevitable demise of the Islamic State—initiated by the liberation of Mosul in July 9 of this year and completed by the liberation of Raqqa a few days ago, has effectively put an end to the reign of terror by a most extremist and violent “Muslim” organization.

Mosul and Raqqa were the capitals of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria respectively. Although some of its leaders and die-hard fighters are still in hiding, the Islamic State and its self-declared Caliphate now belong to the past.

The fall of Islamic State shows, once again, that extremism and intolerance have no place in Islam and will not be tolerated by Muslims.

In both Iraq and Syria, Muslims were the ones who resisted the terror group’s rule and ideology and consequently paid the biggest price for it. Similarly in other countries Muslims, were often the main target of the wrath of Islamic State, who could not tolerate being rejected and condemned unconditionally and universally by Muslims.

There was, however, another unfortunate consequence of the extremists’ reign of terror.

They showed an unprecedented hatred and violence towards non-Muslims, particularly Christians. This they claimed was their Islamic duty and their strategy to establish an Islamic society. Yet contrary to their claim, the hatred and violence against non-Muslims has no precedent in Islamic history.

The mere fact that in almost all Muslim countries there are Christians, and to a lesser degree Jews, living there and the fact that their places of worship are still operating and serving their communities indicates many Muslims have not regarded them as enemies.

The fact ISIS introduced a system of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Yezidis and Arab Christians shows the Yezidis and Christians were present in those countries and were not eliminated by their Muslim neighbours prior to the rise of ISIS. If ISIS was able to destroy the churches and places of worship belonging to Yezidis, as well as pre-Islamic cultures, it proves that they were not destroyed by Muslims prior to the emergence of ISIS—otherwise they would have been non-existent.

The fact of the matter is followers of Abrahamic religions are to be protected by every Islamic government as its duty— this I will discuss in a future column. As far as Christians are concerned, there is a historical document that clearly demonstrates this principle.

At the library of St. Catherine monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt, which is the oldest functioning monastery in the world, there is a very interesting letter on display.

The letter, signed and sealed with his handprint, was written by Prophet Muhammad and offers protection and religious freedom to Christians in all Islamic territories and at all times. It was issued in response to the request of a delegation from Sinai who met him in the year 626, the second year of establishment of the Islamic society in Medina.

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

“No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs, nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

“No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation [i.e. Muslim] is to disobey this covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

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The Other al-Baghdadi — and the Christians Fighting for Freedom in Syria

by ANDREW DORAN October 10, 2017 4:00 AM

syriacThey are a moderating force in the region, like the Jews before them and the secular Muslims who fear they might be next. Raqqa, Syria — The soldiers of the Syriac Military Council sit on a rug in an abandoned home in the urban wreckage of the caliphate’s capital, perhaps 200 yards from ISIS, drinking tea and chain-smoking. The predominantly Christian unit is a small but symbolically important part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have encircled ISIS and are slowly closing in.

The Syriac officers point out that those who’ve joined their ranks — including Muslims, both Arabs and Kurds, foreigners, and other Christians — are a symbol of the Syria for which they are fighting: a federated Syria, an alternative to Baathism and Islamism. “For the first time in our history, we are fighting for each other,” says one Syriac commander. A few moments later, a Muslim soldier in the Syriac unit enters the room, unfurls a prayer rug, kneels toward Mecca in the south, and prays. He then rises and sits beside the interpreter, and a lengthy debate about the interpreter’s unruly hair ensues. Their tension-relieving banter doesn’t even pause for the small-arms fire and artillery outside; they take no notice.

The Syriac officer points to the interpreter, Ibrahim, as another example of their diversity. Ibrahim, like the late caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is originally from Iraq. Ibrahim is a convert to Christianity, but he was born into one of the last Jewish families of Baghdad — a community that numbered well over 100,000 in 1948. His ancestors arrived in Mesopotamia 26 centuries ago, when thousands of Jerusalem’s citizens were taken into captivity in Babylon, modern-day Iraq. The Psalms recall the heartbreak of that exile: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL REVIEW 

 

Rebuilding Aleppo means rebuilding links between Christians and Muslims

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The Archbishop of Armenians in Syria’s second-largest city concluded a week-long European tour with a visit to Paris on Wednesday, in which he argued that moving on from a fierce conflict meant fostering ties between communities and faiths.

Monsignor Chahane Sarkissian witnessed first-hand the Battle of Aleppo from its beginning in July 2012 to the intense fighting under siege of Syrian and Russian forces that led to its end on 22 December 2016.

Only about a third of the 45,000 Armenian Christians lived in the city before the conflict began remain today, and Sarkissian described how those who stayed are rebuilding their lives and encouraging others to return.

“We are trying our best to open the schools and then the small and medium businesses to give the Armenian community the possibility to continue there, instead of leaving as refugees to other places, including other parts of the world,” he said.

“We are the people of this country, not just as Christian communities at an ecumenical level, but also with the Muslims. The majority of the population of Syria is Muslim, but we live with them, and we hope to continue our life inside the city and the country.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RFI

Among Allentown’s Syrians, mostly shock over Trump missile strike

MarkMakela22

Four years ago, much of Allentown’s largely Christian Syrian community opposed President Barack Obama’s threatened missile attack to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons on its own people.

They feel the same way about the attack Donald Trump launched Thursday night, people interviewed Friday suggest.

The U.S. is not the world’s policeman and has no right to insert itself, uninvited, into Syria’s internal affairs, said the Very Rev. Anthony Sabbagh, pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Allentown, which is the cultural center of Allentown’s Syrian Christian community.

“His action is not going to strengthen the Syrian government, which is protecting the Christians,” Sabbagh said. “It will strengthen ISIS, which is killing the Christians.” And not just Christians, Sabbagh added, but nonradicalized Muslims in Syria.

Sabbagh said he believes the Assad government’s explanation that the poisonous gas that killed at least 86 men, women and children in rebel-controlled Idlib Province was released when its jets’ conventional missiles hit a terrorist chemical weapons stockpile.

“Syria is fighting ISIS on its own to the end,” Sabbagh said. “Russia is in Syria. Russia isn’t stupid either. They know they have the upper hand now. They would not use chemical weapons.”

Sabbagh said he voted for Trump thinking he would let the Syrian people determine their own fate, but he’s now regrets casting that ballot. In his mind, Assad is the only leader standing in the way of Islamic terror-fueled chaos in the Middle East.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MORNING CALL 

Which Christians Are Telling Donald Trump to Keep Out Refugees?

lead_960President Trump has signed an executive order that temporarily suspends the U.S. refugee program and bars Syrian refugees. It will likely suspend immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries and bars the admission of anyone who engages in “acts of bigotry or hatred,” including “the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own.” It also allows the the secretaries of State and Homeland Security to jointly admit individuals on a case-by-case basis, “including when the person is a religious minority … facing religious persecution.”

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, Trump clarified what this means: Christians refugees will be given priority status. “They’ve been horribly treated,” the president said. “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough, to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.” People overseas “were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians,” he added, “so we are going to help them.”

The announcement was met with immediate backlash from leaders of nearly every Christian denomination, along with those of other faiths. They argue that Trump’s actions do not reflect the teachings of the Bible, nor the traditions of the United States, and they have urged the president to let them get back to work—many of the country’s most prominent refugee resettlement organizations are faith-based.

If so many prominent Christian leaders reject the notion that their fellow Christians should get preferential treatment, why has this become Trump’s policy? One possible answer is that these leaders don’t necessarily reflect what their flocks believe. Even if they think an open refugee policy is in line with the teachings of Christianity, lay Americans don’t necessarily feel the same way.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY

Even Christian Groups Disagree With Republicans’ Plan To Prioritize Religious Minorities In Refugee Crisis

Syrian refugeesWASHINGTON — Christian groups that work with refugees are strongly opposed to a proposal that would in effect put Iraqi and Syrian Christians ahead of Muslims for resettlement in the U.S., even if they are also victims of persecution.

Ten House Republicans have signed on to a bill introduced this month by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that, among other things, instructs the government to prioritize religious minorities from Syria and Iraq for refugee status. The Obama administration plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on Thursday.

As western countries determine how many people to take in from the Middle East amid an ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the religious provision in McCaul’s proposal points to a key point of tension: the fact that most Syrians are Muslim.

This has been specifically highlighted by some leaders, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said admitting more refugees could take away Europe’s Christian identity.

U.S. politicians who oppose accepting more Syrian refugees have been less explicitly focused on religion, but contend that it would harm national security because some of those acceptedcould be potential terrorists. In announcing the legislation, the congressman did not mention any religion specifically, but instead focused on the “threat posed by inadequate security screening procedures for refugees seeking entry into the United States,” including members of the Islamic State. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders Unite to Denounce ISIS and Violence in Iraq and Syria

Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders Unite to Denounce ISIS and Violence in Iraq and SyriaIn an unprecedented demonstration of multi-religious solidarity, leaders of Christian, Muslim and other religious communities from Iraq, Syria and the larger Middle East region today have denounced with one voice all violence in the name of religion, and have called on the international community to protect religious and cultural diversity in Iraqand Syria.

Religious leaders from Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Mandean, and Yazidi communities across the Middle East today jointly issued the Vienna Declaration, “United against Violence in the Name of Religion”, at the international conference organized by the KAICIID Dialogue Centre.

This is the first time religious leaders representing so many different religions from a crisis region have come together as one to denounce oppression, marginalization, persecution and killing of people in the name of religion.

The religious leaders were united in acknowledging that the current conflict in Iraq and Syria targets followers of every religion. They jointly rejected all violence in the name of religion, and attempts by groups like ISIS to claim legitimacy for their actions within the teachings of Islam. They also condemned the serious violation of human rights in Iraq andSyria; especially against Christian, Yazidi and other religious and ethnic groups.

The religious leaders emphasized the right of all to be treated with dignity and humanity regardless of their religious tradition. Atrocities committed in the name of religion are crimes against humanity, and crimes against religion. The declaration also rejects and denounces the support or sponsorship of terrorism.

FULL ARTICLE FROM KAICIID Dialogue Centre