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 As far as Christians are concerned, there is a historical document that clearly demonstrates this principle.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

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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 

Most refugees who enter the U.S. as religious minorities are Christians

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A little over a third of the refugees who were admitted into the United States in fiscal 2016 (37%) were religious minorities in their home countries. Of those, 61% were Christians, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.

Muslims, the next largest group, made up 22% of the religious minority refugees who were admitted to the U.S. Other, smaller world religions and Hindus made up the bulk of the remaining religious minority refugees (9% and 6%, respectively).

The analysis comes as Donald Trump’s administration has announced it will give priority to religious minorities who apply for refugee status in the U.S. Trump himself has said that Christians will be given preference

The landscape is different when it comes to the two-thirds of refugees who entered the U.S. as religious majorities in fiscal 2016. Six-in-ten of these refugees (60%) were Muslim and 35% were Christian. Buddhists made up 6% of these refugees, coming mostly from Burma (Myanmar) and Bhutan.

The U.S. admitted 85,000 refugees in 2016. Almost all came from these 10 countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo (19%), Syria (15%), Burma (15%), Iraq (12%), Somalia (11%), Bhutan (7%), Iran (4%), Afghanistan (3%), Ukraine (3%) and Eritrea (2%).

Christians are a religious majority in three of these 10 countries. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo – from which the U.S. accepted the largest number of refugees (over 16,000) in 2016 – is a predominantly Christian nation, split almost evenly between Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians. The vast majority (93%) of refugees accepted from that country were of these Christian denominations. Similarly, 61% of refugees coming to the U.S. from Eritrea in 2016 were Orthodox Christians, the majority religious group.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

Christians and Muslims fight to protect ancient Christian town against ISIS

sadadAs ISIS advances on Sadad, a strategic Syrian town near Homs, hundreds of Christian and Muslim fighters are battling to defend it.

Islamic State militants began an offensive in the ancient Assyrian heartlands on October 31, capturing Maheen, a town just four miles from Sadad.

Sadad is considered strategic because it lies between Homs and Damascus, the capital of Syria, and two years ago was overrun by ISIS. It was recaptured by the Syrian army, but not before almost 50 Christians were massacred, and believers are once again fleeing the town in fear of the militants. The population of the town has dropped from 15,000 to just 2,000 in the past few months.

In an interview with Newsweek, Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II, the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, confirmed that Sadad is under siege. But as the militants attack, at least 200 Syriac Christian fighters have been joined by Muslims from across Syria in an attempt to push them back.

“IS advanced toward Sadad but they were not able to enter,” Karim said. “The young people in Sadad, with the help of some armed groups, were able to fight back and push IS back to where they started. They are helped by some groups coming from different parts of Syria also.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY

Isis wants Christians and Muslims to fight a war. Will Republicans take the bait?

The distended Republican presidential field’s response to the terror attacks in Paris is a conglomeration of policy proposals that look something like this: a ground invasion of Syria and Iraq that will explicitly be less careful about killing civilians, combined with a policy of relief for refugees only if they’re Christians.

One can almost see the Islamic State’s top ideologues and propagandists celebrating. And why not? Muslims the world over, which Isis views (wrongly) as a sea of potential recruits, could be forgiven for viewing the Republican rhetoric as a declaration of holy war against their co-religionists.

I wish my thumbnail descriptions of Republicans’ talking points were a joke, but they’re not. And the policies described by the candidates line up almost exactly with the image of America that Isis seeks to portray in its propaganda. The target for Isis’s messaging was made abundantly clear in a statement last month from the group: “Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims,” said Isis spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians, but not the Muslims … when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN