Transsexual people have spoken out against Government plans to make it easier to ‘change sex’.
In a letter to The Guardian, seventeen transsexuals who have undergone full sex reassignment surgery said they were “deeply concerned” about removing safeguards from the Gender Recognition Act.
The Government says it wants to allow people to legally change sex by ‘self-declaration’.
This would strip away current requirements: to have lived as a member of the opposite sex for a minimum of two years and have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
The letter’s signatories said that replacing the current process for changing sex with an “over-the-counter style self-declaration” blurs the distinction between those who have had surgery, and those who have no intention of doing so.
They said it was problematic when male-bodied people “demand the rights afforded to women as a protected sex, including access to their private spaces”.
It continued: “We fear that these proposals will not only put women’s rights at risk but also damage our credibility in society.”
They called on politicians to “show courage and facilitate dialogue valuing all affected groups”, adding that they “absolutely condemn all attempts to suppress this debate”.
However, some activists have hit out at Channel 4 for allowing one of its programmes to debate transsexualism at all.
The controversial Genderquake series features eleven young people, of whom only two are heterosexual and identify as their birth sex.
In an open letter, trans activists objected, accusing the broadcaster of “complicitly offering anti-trans bigotry an ever-larger media platform”.
LGBT campaigner Dr Adrian Harrop added: “It’s an absurd debate, it’s absurd and outdated and antiquated conversation that I am not prepared to shed any legitimacy on.”
Channel 4 said that it is “committed to providing space for debate and discussion about the big issues that are affecting society”.
At least 23 of the 30 major league baseball teams plan to host a homosexual “Pride Night” during the 2018 season, leaving just two teams to have never held such an event—the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels—and even then, the two still support the sin of homosexuality by other means. The other five teams have hosted Pride Night in years past.
The majority of the teams plan to hold their events during June, which homosexual advocates observe as “Pride Month.” Pride Night includes various gestures of support, such as the display of a rainbow flag, the offering of homosexual-themed merchandise, the presentation of a homosexual choral group or the zeroing in on homosexuals for kiss cams.
Some teams specifically highlight their scheduled Pride Night on their website.
“The Phillies invite you to celebrate Philadelphia’s rich LGBTQ culture at our second annual Pride Night Celebration at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday, June 28 at 7:05 p.m. when the Phillies host the Washington Nationals,” writes the Philadelphia Phillies. “All members of the LGBT community, as well as family, friends and organizations are invited to come out and show their pride at this event.”
The St. Louis Cardinals additionally are offering a rainbow-themed t-shirt to attendees of their upcoming Pride Night, and plan to donate a part of the ticket sales to a homosexual advocacy organization.
“Pride St. Louis and the St. Louis Cardinals are partnering to present the 2nd Annual Pride Night at Busch Stadium on Friday, August 17,” their site reads. “Join LGBT friends, family, and allies to watch the Cardinals take on the Milwaukee Brewers.”
“With the purchase of a special theme ticket, fans will receive a Cardinals t-shirt with a rainbow STL logo. A portion of each ticket sold will benefit Missouri Courage Scholarship, which is the first, and largest, state-wide LGBTQ scholarship organization in Missouri,” it states.
The major league team says that it plans to present a men’s choral group singing “God Bless America” prior to the game.
The Boston Red Sox will hold a pre-game “pride party” and the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus will perform the national anthem at the June 7 game.
Other teams scheduled to offer Pride Night include the Minnesota Twins, the Milwaukee Brewers, the New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves, the Baltimore Orioles, the Seattle Mariners, the Oakland Athletics, and the Washington Nationals.
LifeSite News reports that while the New York Yankees have not hosted a pride-themed evening, as they do not offer themed games of any kind, they do support “organizations that assist lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths.” The Los Angeles Angels also sell pride rainbow shirts on their website.
As previously reported, Christians believe that all men are born with the Adamic sin nature, and have inherent inclinations that are contrary to the law of God, being utterly incapable of helping themselves. It is why Jesus outlined in John 3:5-7 that men must be regenerated by the second birth.
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” he declared. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
2 Corinthians 5:15-17 also teaches, “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again. … Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Jesus additionally outlined in Matthew 19:4-5, “Have ye not read that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh?’”
North Korea said Saturday that it will dismantle its nuclear test site in less than two weeks, in a dramatic event that would set up leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with President Donald Trump next month. Trump welcomed the “gracious gesture.”
In a statement carried by state media, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said all of the tunnels at the country’s northeastern testing ground will be destroyed by explosion, and observation and research facilities and ground-based guard units will also be removed.
Kim had already revealed plans to shut the test site by the end of May during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month. Analysts say that while the closure of the site is important, it doesn’t represent a material step toward full denuclearization.
“A ceremony for dismantling the nuclear test ground is now scheduled between May 23 and 25,” depending on weather, the Foreign Ministry’s statement said, adding that journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain will be invited to witness the dismantling.
The ministry said the North will continue to “promote close contacts and dialogue with the neighboring countries and the international society so as to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the globe.”
Trump, in a tweet Saturday, thanked North Korea for its plan to dismantle the nuclear test site, calling it “a very smart and gracious gesture!”
Following the Moon-Kim meeting, Moon’s office said Kim was willing to disclose the process to international experts, but the North’s statement Saturday didn’t address allowing experts on the site.
South Korea had no immediate response to the statement.
The North’s announcement comes days after Washington announced that the historic summit between Kim and Trump will be held June 12 in Singapore.
South Korea has said Kim has genuine interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons in return for economic benefits. However, there are lingering doubts about whether Kim would ever agree to fully relinquish the weapons he probably views as his only guarantee of survival.
During their meeting at a border truce village, Moon and Kim vaguely promised to work toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, but made no references to verification or timetables.
North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of “denuclearization” that bears no resemblance to the American definition. The North has been vowing to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its 28,500 troops from South Korea and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.
Some experts believe Kim may try to drag out the process or seek a deal in which he gives away his intercontinental ballistic missiles but retains some of his shorter-range arsenal in return for a reduced U.S. military presence in the South. This could satisfy Trump but undermine the alliance between Washington and Seoul.
Kim declared his nuclear force as complete in December, following North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test to date in September and three flight tests of ICBMs designed to reach the U.S. mainland.
North Korea announced at a ruling party meeting last month that it was suspending all tests of nuclear devices and ICBMs, as well as the plan to close the nuclear testing ground.
Kim said during the meeting that the nuclear test site’s mission had come “to an end” because the North had completed developing nuclear-capable intermediate-range missiles, ICBMs and other strike means.
The North also said for the first time at the meeting that it had been conducting “subcritical” nuclear tests. These refer to experiments involving a subcritical mass of nuclear materials that allow scientists to examine the performance and safety of weapons without triggering a nuclear chain reaction and explosion.
North Korea’s reference to such activity is designed to communicate that even without underground testing, the country intends to maintain its nuclear arsenal and be a “responsible” steward of those weapons at the same time, said Andrea Berger, a senior analyst at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Still, the closure of the underground testing site could be a useful precedent for Washington and Seoul as they proceed with the nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang, analysts say.
“Now that North Korea has accepted in principle that agreements should be verified, U.S. negotiators should hold them to this standard for any subsequent agreement,” said Adam Mount, a senior defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. “It will make it more difficult for Kim Jong Un to deny inspections now that he has placed them on the table.”
North Korea has invited the outside world to witness the dismantling of its nuclear facilities before. In June 2008, international broadcasters were allowed to show the demolishing of a cooling tower at the Nyongbyon reactor site, a year after the North reached an agreement with the U.S. and four other nations to disable its nuclear facilities in return for an aid package worth about $400 million.
But in September 2008, the North declared that it would resume reprocessing plutonium, complaining that Washington wasn’t fulfilling its promise to remove the country from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The administration of George W. Bush removed North Korea from the list in October 2008 after the country agreed to continue disabling its nuclear plant. However, a final attempt by Bush to complete an agreement to fully dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program collapsed that December when the North refused to accept U.S.-proposed verification methods.
The North went on to conduct its second nuclear test in May 2009.
SURABAYA, Indonesia (May 13, 2018) — Suicide bombers who carried out deadly attacks on three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city on Sunday were a family of six that included two young children, police said, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation recoiled in horror at one of the worst attacks on its Christian minority.
At least 13 people, including all six family members, died in the attacks in Surabaya and at least 41 were injured, according to police, in acts that Indonesia’s president condemned as “barbaric.”
The bombings were the worst to target churches in Indonesia since a series of attacks on Christmas Eve in 2000 killed 15 people and wounded nearly 100. Religious minorities in Indonesia, especially Christians, have been repeatedly targeted by militants.
National police chief Tito Karnavian said that the father exploded a car bomb, two sons aged 18 and 16 used a motorcycle for their attack, and the mother was with daughters aged 12 and 9 for her attack.
Karnavian said the family had returned to Indonesia from Syria, where until recently the Islamic State group controlled significant territory.
The extremist group claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency.
The first attack struck the Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church in Surabaya, police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera told reporters at the scene. That blast was followed by a second explosion minutes later at the Christian Church of Diponegoro and a third at the city’s Pantekosta Church, Mangera said.
A witness described the woman’s attack at the Diponegoro church, saying she was carrying two bags when she arrived.
“At first officers blocked them in front of the churchyard, but the woman ignored them and forced her way inside. Suddenly she hugged a civilian then (the bomb) exploded,” said the witness, a security guard who identified himself as Antonius.
Mangera said three unexploded homemade bombs, two at the Pantekosta church and one at the Diponegoro church, were detonated by a bomb squad.
Shattered glass and chunks of concrete littered the entrance of the Santa Maria Church, which was sealed off by armed police. Rescue personnel treated victims at a nearby field while officers inspected wrecked motorcycles in the parking lot that had been burned in the explosion.
A street merchant outside the church said she was blown several meters (yards) by the blast.
“I saw two men riding a motorbike force their way into the churchyard. One was wearing black pants and one with a backpack,” said the merchant, Samsia, who uses a single name. “Soon after that the explosion happened.”
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visited the scenes of the attacks and described them as “cowardly actions” that were “very barbaric and beyond the limit of humanity.”
In Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, the Indonesian Church Association condemned the attacks.
“We are angry,” said Gormar Gultom, an official with the association, but urged people to let the police investigation take its course.
Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, also condemned the attacks.
Separately, national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said police fatally shot four suspected militants and arrested two others early Sunday in West Java towns. It wasn’t clear whether the shootings were connected to the church attacks.
“They have trained in order to attack police,” Wasisto said, identifying the militants as members of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, an Islamic State group-affiliated network of about two dozen extremist groups that has been implicated in a number of attacks in Indonesia over the past year.
Jakarta police placed the capital and surrounding areas on high alert, while the transportation ministry warned airports to be on guard.
The church attacks came days after police ended a hostage-taking ordeal by imprisoned Islamic militants at a detention center near Jakarta in which six officers and three inmates died. IS claimed responsibility.
Indonesia has carried out a sustained crackdown on militants since bombings by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals in Bali in 2002 killed 202 people. In recent years, the country has faced a new threat as the rise of IS in the Middle East invigorated local militant networks.
Christians, many of whom are from the ethnic Chinese minority, make up about 9 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million people.
Three Korean American evangelicals held as prisoners in North Korea for at least a year are now on their way home, President Donald Trump announced in a tweetthis morning.
“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting,” the president wrote.
Pompeo was said to bring up the plight of the Christian prisoners—Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song, and Kim Sang Duk—during his initial visit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a month ago.
Their release comes as President Trump prepares for a historic meeting with Kim Jong-un as early as this month. Trump also said in his tweet that Pompeo had another “good meeting” and that the date and place had been set for when the two heads of state will meet.
The three Christians spent between a year and three years detained in North Korea, and two previously worked at a private university in the country’s capital.
The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) is mostly staffed by Christian professors who are forced to keep their faith private due to the dictatorship’s severe restrictions on religious expression.
Professors Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk were arrested last May and charged with “hostile” acts against the government, the same erroneous charge levied against missionary Kenneth Bae, who was released in 2014. Kim Dong Chul was arrested in 2015.
Leading up to the proposed denuclearization talks between Trump and Kim Jong-un, Christian religious freedom advocates Open Doors had lobbied for the President to push for the American prisoners’ release. “We simply cannot afford to let these Americans stay another day on North Korean soil,” Open Doors USA CEO David Curry stated.
Trump hinted at their possible release a week ago and will greet them when they land late tonight.
This morning, Oklahoma Senator James Lankford—himself a Southern Baptist and outspoken advocate for religious freedom—called the release of the prisoners “the key thing North Korea could do to send a good message” prior to the Trump meeting.
This is the first time in six years, since before Bae’s arrest in 2012, that North Korea has no US citizens in prison.
Trump tweeted that all three of the released prisoners “seem to be in good health,” a contrast to the last American released—college student Otto Warmbier—who was in a coma and died days after arriving back in the United States last June.
North Korea ranks as the worst country for Christian persecution on the annual Open Doors World Watch List, and the organization estimates that beyond the foreign nationals detained there, many of the country’s own citizens—including around 50,000 believers—are being held in detention centers, prisons, or political camps.
“I want Trump to address the 250,000 prisoners in North Korean prison camps. And the hunger citizens face,” one freed North Korean Christian said. “I would like to see Kim Jong-un encouraged to open the door and take on the economic reform process. This is the beginning step to becoming a democratic society.”
Christians have been praying for months for the upcoming meeting and the possibility of peace on the Korean peninsula.
A group of Christians including National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson, Sojourners president Jim Wallis, author Eric Metaxas, and Evangelicals for Social Action executive director Nikki Toyama-Szeto released a statement in March addressing the ongoing diplomatic talks with North Korea.
“We pray for wisdom for our political, diplomatic and military leaders as they work across differences toward a goal of peace, security and freedom,” it said. “We pray that God will bless the efforts of citizens who seek to bridge the vast differences between our countries
A Christian female athlete is being applauded for standing up for her beliefs and refusing to dance to a “risqué” song on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.
Professional softball player Jennie Finch-Daigle told the show’s producer and then her partner that she couldn’t dance to Janelle Monáe’s song “Make Me Feel,” which is filled with suggestive lyrics and touches on bisexuality. It’s even been called a “bisexual anthem.”
“I’m not really sure about the song,” she told dance partner Keo Motsepe during a rehearsal broadcast on the May 7 episode. “It’s just not me.”
Motsepe told her to “just relax” and that he would “make it work.”
Viewers then heard a phone call between her and the producer in which she said, “I’m struggling with my song choice. It’s a little too risqué. I’m just not feeling comfortable with it. I can’t go through with it.”
She later told Motsepe, “I need to follow who I am and stand up for what I believe.”
Because of the change in songs, the two had only three days to prepare a new dance.
Finch-Daigle later told reporters, according to US Weekly, “I want to glorify God out there, and that just wasn’t a great choice for me to do that.”
On the official Dancing With The Stars YouTube channel, most commenters praised her decision.
“She did fantastic for having changed the song that late in the week! She followed her instincts, and that’s great! Good to do that now in the competition rather than later,” one person wrote.
Another wrote, “I give Jennie major props. She stays true to who she is as a person and I commend/respect her for doing so.”
Retaliating against the Iranian attack on Israel from Syrian territory, the IDF carried out one of its biggest air operations in the last few decades, attacking dozens of military targets belonging to the Iranian Al Quds Force in Syria overnight Thursday, the IDF Spokesperson reported.
As part of the large-scale attack, the IDF attacked:
Iranian intelligence sites operated by the Al Qods Force;
logistics commands of the Al Qods Force;
a military compound and logistics complex of the Al Qods Force in Kiswah;
an Iranian military camp north of Damascus;
weapons storage sites belonging to the Al Qods Force at Damascus International Airport;
intelligence systems and installations associated with theAl Qods Force;
and an observation post, military posts and weapons in the buffer zone in the Syrian Golan heights.
In addition, the Iranian launcher from which Iranian missiles were fired at Israel was destroyed overnight.
Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepted and shot down four of those 30 missiles, the rest landed in Syrian territory.
The Israeli Air Force attacked Syrian air defense batteries, which fired despite an Israeli warning. In retaliation, the IDF attacked a number of interception systems (SA5, SA2, SA22, SA17) belonging to the Syrian army.
All of Israel’s planes returned to base safely.
The IDF made it a point to say that the attack last night was done by Iranian Al Quds forces, and not by proxies.
The overnight attacks were carried out following the rocket fire launched by the Iranian Qods Force towards the IDF’s front line in the Golan Heights. There were no casualties on Israel’s side from the Iranian attack, no damage was caused, and no hits were identified in Israeli territory.
Overnight, IDF fighter jets struck dozens of military targets belonging to the Iranian Quds forces in Syrian territory pic.twitter.com/LwBJTMkxYR
The strikes tonight were in response to the rockets that the Iranian Quds forces launched towards IDF forward posts in the Golan Heights. No injuries or damage were reported in the Iranian attack, & no hits were located in Israel
The Iranian attack on Israel tonight was yet another clear proof of the intention behind the Iranian forces’ entrenchment in Syria and the danger they pose to Israel and regional stability, the IDF Spokesperson stated, noting that the Israeli home front maintains its civilian routine, that the schools and agricultural work will function as usual on Thursday, and public gatherings of up to 1,000 persons in an open area are permitted in the Golan Heights and Katzrin only.
“The IDF will continue to act decisively against the Iranian military efforts in Syria, views the Syrian regime as being responsible for whatever is happening in its territory, and warns it against acting against Israeli forces,” the report concluded, noting that “the IDF is highly prepared for a variety of scenarios and will continue to act as necessary for the safety of Israeli citizens.”
The IDF pointed out that not a single Iranian rocket managed to hit Israel. Last night Syrian TV falsely claimed that the Iranian missiles hit a dozen IDF bases, and listed the sites they claimed to have hit.
In a response to Hezbollah’s threats that they would hit harder and deeper into Israel if Israel responds to the first strike, first of all, Israel hit back harder and deeper against Iranian forces in Syria, and then sent out a message that if there any more attacks from Syria, the IDF will hit back even harder.
Contrary to the rumors, Russian forces did not get involved in any way in defending Syria or Iran.
Firebomb kite decorated with a swastika by Gaza terrorists
In an interview on Radio Darom, Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan (Likud) said the IDF has received new open fire instructions, and Gazans flying Molotov kites will be treated as terrorists in every way, and the IDF is permitted to eliminate the kite flyers, including by drone-based targeted assassination.
Hundred of acres of Israeli farmland and forest have been burned down in the past few weeks by the Gazans.
Israeli Farmers along the Gaza border have decided to harvest their wheat early this year, due to fear that their fields will be burned down by the Gaza terrorists, if they wait to harvest them at the proper time.
When a Filipino city of 200,000 inhabitants fell into the hands of militants claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group, political leaders could no longer ignore the jihadists’ move east. The regional governments knew it would happen one day, given the presence of groups allying with IS and an Islamist separatist group operating in the south of the archipelago. The battle of Marawi, described by one press agency as “the Philippines’ longest urban war”, was only ended after five months and large-scale intervention by government armed forces. First attacked were a church and a Christian school; Christians were singled out and killed, a priest was abducted and held for four months. But the question that remained was: Where will the radicals go next? Critics say Indonesia and Malaysia have been too lenient with Islamic militants, which could make them vulnerable to intensified violent activity.
The battle to wrest control of Marawi from fighters claiming allegiance to IS paralysed the city and two months after it ended, almost 300 people, including some Christians, were unaccounted for. A priest was kidnapped for four months
While IS is the most extreme movement, a spectrum of Islamist groups operates in different contexts around the world. The aims of the various groups vary from overthrowing non-Islamic rule by force to introducing sharia (Islamic law) through activism, participation in public life and democratic processes. The question of how much space one Islamic creed or another should occupy in public life has opened up fault-lines between Islamists and secularists, extremists and moderates, Sunni and Shia, not to mention Muslims and non-Muslims. In Muslim-majority countries Islamists can be observed trying to normalise a more radical form of Islam, and in Muslim-minority countries, they can be seen trying to radicalise the Muslim communities there and expanding their influence. Recruits can be successful, educated professionals, as well as less educated, poorer Muslims attracted by a victimhood narrative. One regional expert has suggested some young people see jihad as providing meaning amid the materialistic, superficial “selfie” age.
However, Islamic law poses a threat to religious freedom. Living under it places non-Muslims under pressure in their day-to-day lives and their interaction with neighbours, colleagues and relatives, and it can present security threats. Not only Christians have become targets in places where more radical forms of Islam have spread: in Bangladesh, Hindus as well as Christians, foreigners, and liberal writers have been targets of increasing attacks and Islamic fundamentalism. Islamists have also targeted other Muslim minority groups, such as practitioners of Sufi Islam, a more mystical form of the religion. The South Asian Terrorism Portal writes in its Bangladesh Report of 2017 that “there is the threat of increasing radicalisation, as significant numbers of youth[s] appear to be attracted to the movements of global jihad”.
The Bangladeshi government has consistently denied the presence of international terrorist organisations such IS and Al-Qaeda in the country, despite growing evidence, and has taken a stand against secular critics, arguing that citizens have no right to write or speak against any religion. The government has also been accused of arbitrarily cracking down on political opponents, stifling media and arresting critics.
Militancy and division in Asia
Overall, an increase in Islamic militancy has begun affecting many Asian countries: foiled bomb attacks in Bangladesh and Indonesia; the political fall-out of the blasphemy conviction of the Christian ex-Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, nicknamed Ahok, in the Indonesian capital; the battle of Marawi and wider Mindanao unrest in the Philippines; and the forging of an “Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army” in Myanmar, to name but a few. Observers believe that the fight for control of Marawi and the expulsion of the Rohingya Muslim minority from Myanmar could serve as a rallying cry to would-be jihadists around the world.
Harder to record than violent attacks in Asia are increases in social pressure. Nonetheless, observers point to trends they have seen. In Indonesia, intolerance towards Christians became visible on banners, in publications and on social media posts during Ahok’s blasphemy trial. It has filtered down to educational institutions, where non-Muslim children can reportedly face overt discrimination. At the same time, government agencies that once secretly funded the proselytism of Christians by Muslims – especially in areas such as Papua New Guinea – are now doing so in an open manner. Such evangelism is strong among the more impoverished groups in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. One researcher at Open Doors said: “Call it what it is: Islamisation strategies. Some even illicit – just buying poor people.”
Money is an important factor behind proselytism. In Indonesia and the Maldives, Saudi Arabia has been aggressively expanding its financial prowess through a large number of investment projects. These include building mosques and Islamic boarding schools, where Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam, is taught. The result, however, is the creation of intolerant societies where freedom of religion is trampled underfoot.
Expansion in Africa
Many of the trends seen in Asia are also occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Islamic NGOs that have been or still are funded by countries with strong political Islamic agendas, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, have in the last 20 years expanded madrassas and Islamic schools that teach radical views. The effect of this is increasing intolerance towards Christians that can been seen on the newly launched World Watch List, where several sub-Saharan African countries have moved up in the direction of the Top 50.
Indeed, Christians are facing increasing pressure and persecution in Muslim-majority countries in East, West and North Africa. In Egypt last year Islamic State announced that it aimed to wipe out Christians from the region through violence. In parts of northern Nigeria, different forms of Islamism coexist: extremist jihadist attacks by Boko Haram, and sharia creating a tolerance for some of the group’s actions. Other factors come into play, including the reduction of grazing land due to climate change: Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen, often assisted by like-minded settlers, carry out attacks on the country’s Middle Belt’s majority-Christian and African traditionalist inhabitants. This situation suggests ethnic cleansing based on religious affiliation.
In addition, researchers at Open Doors believe there is a gradual expansion of political Islam over majority-Christian southern Nigeria, with the intention to Islamise the south. They say this occurs when Muslim leaders and their constituents pressure adherents of other religions “via banking, businesses, symbolism, mosque-building, schools and NGOs, to the extent that Christians (and adherents of other religions) must either leave or gradually adopt Islamic mores and, in some cases, convert to Islam or resist this attempt to impose an Islamic identity on their land.” They argue that similar dynamics can be observed in other countries with different intensities.
A more overt form of pressure being observed in some African countries is a sort of voluntary ghettoisation that serves to radicalise a Muslim community and, as a result, cleanse it of non-Muslims. The result is a stratification of society between Islam and Christianity which is furthered by Muslim communities side-stepping national legislation by setting up informal Sharia courts, and trying to expand into majority-Christian areas. Where governments are unable to create stable states that can protect their citizens, this easily leads to a vicious circle in which authorities are side-lined or co-opted, giving in to perpetrators of persecution for the sake of “peace”.
And a still more overt form of pressure is being applied in northeast Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan, where Open Doors researchers believe the murders, torture, displacement and deportation of civilians, and destruction of property, could constitute ethnic cleansing or even genocide, both of which are punishable under international law.
Finally, it is worth mentioning instances where Christians are not targeted but find themselves caught in the crossfire of violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims. In such instances, as was seen in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion, Christians were easy targets and their neighbourhoods easy to take control of.
In sum, the increase in Islamist influence in recent decades takes different forms in different contexts. However, from the perspective of the Christian, these developments have resulted in religious freedom being placed under ever greater pressure.
Children across the Highlands are being bullied in schools for their religious beliefs, an MSP has revealed.
Kate Forbes, who represents Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said she was recently approached by families in her constituency about the matter.
They told her there was a lack of understanding about the diversity of religion in Scotland, which can often result in “a lack of tolerance or mockery of religious practices”.
Free Church of Scotland minister Revd Alasdair Macleod agreed. He believes there is a ‘growing problem of intolerance’ towards Christian pupils.
He said: “It feels to me that schools are becoming an increasingly hostile environment for Christian pupils, and this hostility must stop.
“Bullying, mocking or intimidation towards pupils on the basis of their Christian faith is unacceptable and needs to be recognised as such.
“Until this happens, many pupils and their families will continue to be reluctant to speak out.”
The parents’ concerns prompted Miss Forbes to question the Scottish Government over its stance on protecting young people’s freedom of religion and beliefs in the Scottish parliament last week.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney responded by saying that freedom of religious belief is an important feature of Scottish life which must also apply in schools.
Revd Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, congratulated Miss Forbes for raising the issue in parliament, and stressed the importance of freedom of belief for all faiths and none in schools.