Friday, April 28, 2006

Islam & Reciprocity

"(...) Recently, some Muslims have asked that the Pope ask forgiveness for the Crusades, colonialism, missionaries, cartoons, etc… He is not falling in this trap, because he knows that his words could be used not for building dialogue, but for destroying it. This is the experience that we have of the Muslim world: all such gestures, which are very generous and profoundly spiritual to ask for forgiveness for historical events of the past, are exploited and are presented by Muslims as a settling of accounts:
here, they say, you recognize it even yourself: you’re guilty. Such gestures never spark any kind of reciprocity.

At this point, it is worth recalling the Pope’s address to the Moroccan Ambassador (February 20, 2006), when he alluded to “respect for the convictions and religious practices of others so that, in a reciprocal manner, the exercise of freely-chosen
religion is truly assured to all in all societies.” These are two small but very important affirmations on the reciprocity of religious freedoms rights between Western and Islamic countries and on the freedom to change religion, something which is prohibited in Islam. The nice thing is that the Pope dared to say them: in the political and Church world, people are often afraid to mention such things. It’s enough to take note of the silence that reigns when it comes to the religious freedom violations that exist in Saudi Arabia. (...)"

click HERE for the full article.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

JESUS is our greatest need

"Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride.

Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair.

Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the right balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness."

-Pascal, Pensees, XIV.192

Monday, April 24, 2006


There is a report in the current issue of TIME magazine which highlights for me the fact that "Christendom" (and also some genuine Christian believers see HERE and HERE ) are fighting yesterday's battles and not engaging with present realities.

Failure to do will mean lost battles in the future.

What follows is some extracts from the report interspersed with my comments :

" (...) Unlike other European Union capitals, Athens has yet to establish a mosque for its population of Muslims, now estimated at nearly 200,000 and growing. No mosques have operated in Athens since Greece gained independence from the Ottomans in 1832. Instead, Muslims seek a religious haven in 22 temporary mosques: little more than prayer rooms in stuffy basements, windowless warehouses and fetid flats."

Knowing the history of Greece, the role of the Greek Orthodox Church as the focus of Greek national identity under Muslim Ottoman rule, this not surprising. It may be unusual but not surprising.

"The problem was supposed to have been solved six years ago, when the then socialist government, scrambling to prepare for the Athens 2004 Olympics, signed off on a Saudi-funded plan calling for the creation of a mosque-cum-cultural center on the northeastern outskirts of Athens.

Well there are no churches in Saudi Arabia. They are not allowed to exist. In fact Bibles are also contraband. Filipino, Indian and other foreign guest workers are not only regularly harassed but also arrested and even imprisoned with reports of torture simply for meeting to worship or study the Bible with other Christians.

But now there is to be a Saudi funded mosque in Athens.

"(...)The [Greek Orthodox] church's stance has softened(...). As a senior Christian Orthodox official concedes in private, "We, too, have no other choice. We must adjust to the new demands of our society." (...)A recent report by the Council of Europe recommended that the Athens government commit to opening at least one Muslim prayer site in the Greek capital. (...)"

Why didn't the EU or the Greek authorities or even the Greek Orthodox Church, all of whom, seem willing to give in to this pressure not insist on reciprocal presence of a Christian church in Saudi Arabia ?

I think it is because the Greek Orthodox do not consider any other churches other than the Orthodox as "Christian". The same, of course, can be said for Roman Catholicism. So this is a missed opportunity for wider Christianity in general.

"(...) In recent weeks, local media speculated that the latest mosque proposal was precipitated by the government's bid to curry favor with its Arab trade partners."

Here is the power driving all of this : Mammon. That's the problem. For the service of Mammon (i.e. money) the EU, and others, are willing to abandon their Christian heritage completely. This is sad.

How can you then blame Muslims for "taking over" or "taking control" of Europe when you are the ones handing it over to them for free ?

"(...)Greeks, he [Monir Abdeltrassou, a Sudanese imam] says, "have nothing to fear from Islam. We proved it with the Olympics. There were no attacks."

Is that suppose to prove Islam is peaceful ? That Muslims refrained from committing atrocities at an international event in their own country ?

That's like saying : "I'm not a serial killer therefore I am a peaceful person" .

"Scores of other Muslims in the room nod in agreement. They pick up their shoes and file out of a prayer house in the district of Goudi. But one of the faithful stays behind. "Don't forget what happened in France recently," he warns. "Pent up anger, frustration and discrimination can prove dangerous."

I previously argued ( HERE and HERE ) that the riots in France have more to do with socio-economic structural rigidities.

But, it looks like this guy already has jihad on his mind.

The debates will go on, I'm sure.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Conference about Turkey - a Review

Attended this conference with my wife today.

First speaker was Professor Peter Riddell.

He started with a handout listing "10 Arguments For" and "10 Arguments Against" Turkey in Europe under three heads :

1) Economics
2) Politics and
3) Religion and Society.

A helpful framework.

Then, he spoke for about 30 minutes giving an overview of Turkish history over the last 1,000 years or so.

Actually, it was more an overview of Turkish migration as it happened to impinge on the Byzantine Empire.

Plenty of colour coded maps on Powerpoint made it a strongly visual presentation. We were told at the beginning that there were representatives present from the Turkish Embassy. I'm wondering what they thought of all of this.

Anyway, Riddell was followed by Baroness Cox. I was familiar with her by reputation as a champion of Christian causes in the House of Lords. This was the first time I heard her speak.

However, I have to admit I was greatly disappointed. She began with the events of 1915 involving the Armenians. She read through a script that seemed to have been taken from an encyclopedia or prepared by someone else for her benefit.

The Powerpoint presentation was liberally dosed with black and white pics of bodies of dead emaciated children (presumably Armenian) lying on roadsides.

After her talk I told her I could probably find someone in Turkey who could give the same presentation but with different bodies (i.e. Turkish ones).

I don't think she got my point that this kind of exercise only fans hatred on both sides and doesn't get anybody anywhere. But what bloody politician ever does ?

As a Christian I would have expected her to demonstrate a more godly perspective in terms of fairness.

I am not an expert on the international events of that period but there are three things I know for sure : 1) Britain and Russia were at war against the Ottoman Empire 2) the British PM and Foreign Office of the time gave active encouragement to the Armenians to revolt against the Ottoman authorities and 3) Armenians armed by the Russians engaged in raids against some Turkish villages.

She closed her talk by invoking the words of the Lord Jesus about knowing the truth and being liberated thereby --- grossly out of context and self-serving.

Her presentation became more personally engaged (and engaging) but perhaps no less one-sided when she started talking about current events involving Nagorno Karabakh, a semi-autonomous Armenian province within Azerbaijan.

There are always two sides to any story and she was deliberately just giving us one.

The visitors from the Turkish Embassy were not impressed either as the question session later revealed. All questions had to be submitted in writing. One of their questions referred to Arnold Toynbee's book on the Armenian catastrophe as "propaganda" which Baroness Cox rejected in the absence of any proof to that effect: fair enough.

Another asked her whether she would label ASALA (an Armenian organisation) as a "terrorist organisation". Since the questioners were diplomats I understood exactly what was being asked here. And so did the Baroness, of course. However, she was strangely reluctant to apply the label (because it fits the diplomatic definition of "terrorist organisation" used by international bodies) but only gave some indirect response saying she repudiated terrorist acts no matter who committed them.

She was not so reticent about labeling her target group with the word "genocide" despite the fact this term is :

1) a legal term carrying jural consequences
2) defined in the late 1940's and early 1950's and
3) cannot be applied retroactively.

I think, therefore, the term "catastrophe" in regard to what befell the Armenians during that period is more appropriate. This was the term used by the next speaker Ziya Meral. And ,it should be used as a minimum by all who desire genuine reconciliation.

Mr Meral's talk was packed full of facts, tightly reasoned argument and tightly reasoned conclusions. We were told all the papers might one day be available in print. I sure hope so. I do look forward to getting a hold of a copy of Mr.Meral's paper.

Ziya Meral is a Turkish Christian post-graduate student in sociology at the LSE focusing on this very topic. His talk revolved around a detailed psychological and sociological analysis of the processes of "denial" , "acknowledgement" and "reconciliation".

While the Baroness's presentation came close to being an outright demonisation of Turks, Mr. Meral's presentation was ,as a Turk, humbly realistic, full-orbed and fair to Armenians and Turks living at the time and also to us living now under the current circumstances.

As I said, his presentation was chock full of facts. One of the highlights was his use of LSE Professor Stan Cohen's studies on "denial". But he also added some original analysis of his own on top of Cohen's thinking on the subject which again shows what a bright and original thinker he is.

I, as a Turk, must admit was also glad to hear the result of the work produced by his able assistant Miss Google in 4.5 milliseconds on the expression "Western Armenia" : "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". (Are you reading this, Baroness?)

The final lecture before lunch was given by Professor Anthony O'Mahony. It was a very metaphysical discourse with too little factual content. The highlight, I suppose, was his anecdotal account of a 24-year old electrician named Faruk who upon learning that his Armenian ancestors had "passed" as Muslim during the atrocities had now decided to take on an Armenian name (Garabet) and reclaim, once again, his Armenian identity.

Professor O'Mahony made absolutely no reference to the indigenous Christian churches consisting of converts out of the Muslim population. None of the other speakers made any reference to these Christians either. Perhaps this was beyond the scope of this symposium; however, this is a serious failing for LST which presents itself as a Gospel institution.

The agenda, dwelling so heavily on ethnicity and ethnic fault lines as it did, masked (i) what the gospel of the Lord Jesus is (ii) who the Lord Jesus is (iii)what He accomplished and (iv) what He expects from His followers.

This really saddens me because there is the real danger that in fighting the wrong or peripheral battles the Christians of this country will not be advancing but actually undermining the Great Commission.

I've been around for almost 50 years, am a well traveled person having lived and worked in three different cultures and countries. I, more than others perhaps, can from my personal experiences appreciate the need for all peoples no matter how different to work together and to understand one another regardless of race or creed.

However, xenophobia and prejudice have a nasty way of embedding themselves in things like this.

It goes to show how man left to himself will mess things up -- even Christians claiming to be doing the Lord's will. Man does and will always mess it up badly.

That is why I am a pre-millenial realist and not a post-millenial "optimist"...

... but that is for another day and another post.

Be well.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Commentary on Iran & Iraq

A couple of articles HERE and HERE have come upon my radar.

The one about Iraq is a very good expose on the liberal lefty media. However, I do have difficulty believing the nation building efforts will ultimately be successful for the simple reason that the country is composed (in roughly equal numbers) of three ethnic groups which utterly utterly hate one another.

The other one about Iran reminds us, in case we had forgotten, what an evil regime it is. If Nazi Germany needed to be dealt with then so does this one. There is absolutely no difference in the hideousness of the ideology that drove one over 60 years ago and that is driving this one now.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Royal Society Lecture by J. Steve Jones PhD

An apologetic lecture for evolutionism desperately and baldly entitled “Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right”.

He defined evolution as “descent with modification” and gave the evolution of languages as an example citing the work of Sir William Jones.

There are at least two problems with this example one of which is the absence of natural selection in the process of language change which Jones himself mentioned during the lecture only to brush it off without explanation.

He then talked about his gap year experience working at Unilever. He said the factory wanted to develop the most effective nozzle design to make powdered soap so someone suggested they test 10 random designs, take the one that performed best, tweak its design randomly into 10 other shapes, and then test each of them and so on. After so many “generations” they had attained the optimal design.

This was supposed to be an example of biological evolution. However, biological evolution as Jones admitted in the lecture is random and unpredictable whereas the processes of selecting the nozzles as well as the stipulation of the task for which they were being fitted were all intelligently designed by the experimenters. Therefore, it was not random and thus no example of Darwinism.

He then went from the evolution of a nozzle to the evolution of the HIV-AIDS virus. He spent quite a bit of time on this explaining how the virus “evolved” in the 25 years it has been detected in humans. He put up some elaborate slides of family trees of AIDS viruses (virii?) and actually suggested the virus exhibited speciation.

Then he inexplicably put up a slide of (primitive) tools produced by “Neanderthals” and another slide of other (more advanced) tools presumably produced by modern humans, I guess, because he never made it clear nor did he make it clear why he was showing us a bunch of arrowheads.

He then quickly moved on to an anecdote about how a so-called “Cro-Magnon” man could be sitting next to him in the Underground and that he would be indistinguishable from anyone else in the carriage. (Big deal and the point was what exactly?).

The best and most interesting part of the lecture was the section on the FOXP2 gene. Apparently this gene controls the expression of language and is present in fruit flies, birds and also in man. It is also active in some birds like parrots and inactive in others like chickens. Apparently a defect in this gene causes a condition known as “verbal dyspraxia” in humans.

He repeatedly made throw away comments about man being unique and special and actually said “evolution has a limit and we have overstepped it”. I think he was referring to the fact that we have the power to direct our own evolution by making drugs etc. But it does beg the question of how man can “overstep” a process that is supposed to be directing the very nature of his being.

In the question time, someone asked a question about the loss of information through mutation in genes. Prefacing his answer by saying “I get this question all the time” he went on to say that man (and some other creature I can’t recall now) managed somehow to “double their genome”. Golly, how do they manage that? How do you increase your genome ? How do you increase the information content of a system in a process that is supposed to be random?

He ended his comments by taking a final swipe I.D. and left.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Suffering in a Fallen World

UNICEF estimate that the number of children killed since 1990 (a 2006 report) is 1.6 million. The estimated rise in under five mortality rate during a "typical" five year war is 13 percent.

From Sierra Leone: Nanfa was only six years old when the rebels attacked her town. She fled into the bush. That first night, she curled up between a rock and a tree to sleep. She was missing for a week.

When Nanfa finally found her parents, her mother said,
"How could you go to sleep next to a rock? Weren't you afraid?"

Nanfa said
"You always taught us to pray before going to bed, so that night I prayed, "Papa God here I am."

Source : report from the Committee to Study War and Peace

Diyarbakir: Three Killed As Kurdish-Turks Riot in Turkey

Things are hotting up in southeast Turkey.
Via Amerikan Turk.

Quote of the Day

Me to R. : "Hi R. ! How are you !"

R. to me : "Aw, awright. No use complainin' is there? : half the people don't care and the other half are glad you have the problem. "

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ghettos shackle French Muslims

Alison at Making Headlines recounts her personal experience with the French and Muslim immigrants living in France during her studies there.

There is a necessary but little recognised distinction between opposing a false religious system and demonising flesh and blood people who may be associated with that system in some form or other.

This account interestingly underscores the primarily economic (and not religious) nature of the problems in that country. This is true at least insofar as inter-communal relations are concerned. Intra-communal problems may indeed be religious in nature.

Many if not most Christian critics of Islam are, therefore, fighting the wrong battles and actually undermining the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead of promoting and advancing it; which, I am sure is their real inner desire.

This may be just one more reason we are dependent on the Sovereign power and work of God.

Man does tend to screw things up.

Muslim angst over the Abdul Rahman Affair

Read the deliberations HERE .

Monday, April 03, 2006

Interview with Carl Trueman

Listen to it HERE .

Carl makes the statement that "the psalter is the only thing I can sing when I'm depressed" .

Good point there, Carl. Touche!

Question :
" Is that therefore a good reason why we must ONLY sing the psalter? "

Answer : " Only if you are ALWAYS depressed! ".

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Does Islam Respect Religious Freedom ? Review

I’m listening to the Premier Christian Radio debate right now. (Programme details found HERE).The Christian speaking is not someone from Barnabas Fund but is in fact Ziya Meral.

Having heard both sides there still remains the fact that there is over 1400 years of Islamic interpretation not to mention some clear hadiths on the subject of death for the apostate.

These hadiths were not mentioned during the debate; but, can be found on the Answering Islam website.

Therefore, any idealistic outcome is highly unlikely and simply naive.

Next week the topic on "Unbelievable" (the name of the weekly programme run on Saturdays between 12:00-14:00 GMT on Premier Christian Radio) is the Death of Christ.

The speakers again will be a Muslim (someone called Abdul Hak) and Jay Smith. The Muslim will be arguing Jesus never died and Jay will be arguing for the truth.