Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
April 3, 2011

Where there's smoke there's fire. Roughly fifteen years ago, early signs of a dramatic new flaring up of fanatical hatred for the Christian faith were beginning to make their appearance in the Islamic world.  Though for such traditional breeding grounds of anti-Christian terrorist acts as the Philippine Island of Mindanao, that kind of hatred would be simply business as usual. But by and large the proverb just quoted described pretty well how things stood back then in the world of Muslim-Christian relations, with forebodings of worse to come. Well, that "worse" is now upon us, full-blown not just smoke but raging fire, with persecution of Christians by Muslim zealots now approaching pandemic status throughout the lands where the flag of the Crescent wins a salute. And the fire isn't just metaphorical. Two weeks ago no fewer than 69 Christian churches were torched within a matter of days in a Muslim-dominated sector of Ethiopia. Pope Benedict has repeatedly called upon world leaders to do whatever is possible to protect Christian minorities in the Middle East, but seemingly to little avail. Most especially the past two years, 2009 and 2010, have been BANNER years for this kind of violence against Christian minorities, and 2011 is proving to be holding its own in the competition. Do the Muslim Brotherhood and kindred movements sense that the West-and in particular the U.S.A. as the leader of the West-no longer really cares?

May I share with you here a series of reports from Catholic, Protestant and secular sources on the most recent atrocity, the widespread burning of churches in Ethiopia. And à propos of this whole theme of a virulent new strain of Islamism may I emphatically recommend the film (in French with English subtitles) that is now playing at the Edina Theatre-I hope that other venues will quickly pick it up-called Of Gods and Men [from Psalm 82(81): "I say, you are Gods, sons of the Most High, yet you shall die like men"]. Faithfully based on a true story, wonderfully acted and beautifully photographed, the film depicts the life of a group of eight Catholic monks living in a compound on the outskirts of a Muslim village in the foothills of Algeria's Atlas Mountains back in the 1990's. The monks provide free medical care to the villagers and are beloved by them. But then a new presence begins to make itself felt, shadowy Muslim terrorists striking often by night in an effort to overthrow the secular government and to install a "more authentic" form of Islamic governance. I will say no more, but if you see the film-and I hope you will: it is excellent LENTEN fare, almost like being on a retreat-I think you will find it unforgettable.

And now to the Ethiopian atrocity reports.
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Ethiopia: 10,000 Christians Flee Homes After 69 Churches Are Burned Down
March 21, 2011

Muslim extremists have burned down 69 Protestant churches - 46 of them Pentecostal - in southwestern Ethiopia. The violence started in the town of Asendabo following reports that the Qur'an was being flushed down the toilet at one of the churches.

Thirty homes, a school, and an orphanage have also been burned down; the number of Christians who have fled their homes has risen in recent days to 10,000, according to International Christian Concern, a human rights organization that assists victims of persecution.

"I don't know what will be next: first they burn down our churches and houses," said Wolde Giorgis, an elementary school teacher. "Are they going to kill us next?"

"I don't care who STARTED the violence," he added. "The fact is that thousands of LOCAL Muslims, my NEIGHBORS, have PARTICIPATED in it. That's why I don't see a future for me and other Christians in this town anymore."

One percent of the nation's 79.2 million people are Roman Catholic, according to Vatican statistics; 50% are Oriental Orthodox Christian, 10% are Protestant, and 33% are Muslim. [Some would put the Muslim population at closer to 40 percent].
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Ethiopian PM Blames Muslim Sect over Church Attacks
Reuters March 13, 2011
By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi blamed a little-known local Muslim group for preaching religious intolerance in an area where Christian churches were burnt last week, killing one person.

Authorities have said up to 50 churches [the latest figure is 69] have been burnt and around 3,000 Christians displaced since March 2 when Muslim youths attacked the community around Asendabo, some 360 km (215 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa.

The U.S.-based International Christian Concern said youths had accused Christians of desecrating the Koran.

The group, which says it aims to fight the persecution of Christians, accused local security officials of doing nothing to stop the attacks.

Meles told a news conference late on Saturday that "elements of the Kawarja sect and other extremists" had been preaching religious intolerance in the area."

The government has been trying to stop the violence. That has been done quite successfully in spite of the property damage and the death of one Ethiopian," he said.

International Christian Concern said Kawarja, about whom little is known, aimed to set up an Islamic state in mainly Christian Ethiopia, where Muslims make up a quarter of the population.

More than a dozen members of Ethiopia's Pentecostal church were killed in the same area in 2006 in similar attacks over desecration charges.

Meles said it was hard to prosecute Islamic extremists.

"We knew that they were peddling this ideology of intolerance, but it was not possible for us to stop them administratively because they are within their rights," he said.

"If we can find some association between what they are doing by way of preaching and what happened by way of violence, then of course we can take them to court.
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In Ethiopia, Muslims Burn 69 Churches
Baptist Press March 17, 2011
Melanie Clinton

ASENDABO, Ethiopia (BP)--Muslims have killed at least one Christian and wounded several others in anti-Christian violence in western Ethiopia, according to International Christian Concern, an organization that helps persecuted Christians worldwide.

ICC also is reporting that Muslims have burned down 69 church buildings, 30 Christian homes, a Bible school, a Christian orphanage and a church office.

The anti-Christian attacks started March 2 after Muslims allegedly accused Christians of desecrating the Quran, the Islamic holy book. Violence continues to affect residents of the area. During the initial days of the attacks 3,000 Christians were displaced; ICC reports those numbers now have climbed to 10,000. Although Ethiopian Orthodox churches are predominant throughout the country, at least the first 55 churches burned belonged to evangelical denominations, according to Sam Parkman, a Christian worker who served in Ethiopia from 2007-10.

Mike Turner, an International Mission Board strategy leader in North Africa, said none of the 55 churches identified thus far are Baptist. The denominations of the 14 other churches have not been reported....

ICC reported that military forces have been sent to curtail the attacks in Asendabo and surrounding areas. Federal government officials removed the local administrator, a Muslim, for his failure to protect the Christians. Voice of America reported that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi blamed the attacks on a little-known Muslim extremist group called Kwarej. Some reports indicate 130 Muslims believed to be involved in the violence have been arrested.

Asendabo also was the scene of anti-Christian violence in 2006, when Muslims killed more than a dozen Christians and destroyed several churches.

"Islamic radicals are fighting to establish an ISLAMIC STATE in Christian- majority Ethiopia," ICC's regional manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, asserted. "...Christians will continue to be killed unless the government of Ethiopia starts taking SERIOUS measures to stop Islamists from carrying out similar attacks" .....

Parkman said Muslims in Ethiopia are getting more vocal in hopes of boosting their numbers. "They've stepped up their voice by doing events, like rallies," he said. "... Also, violence seems to be getting more and more frequent."

Turner also said evidence of the growth of Islam is increasing. "You can see that visibly just from the number of mosques going up," he said. "And the more you get into the culture and engage people in conversation, [you discover] there are more Muslims than there used to be."

Nearly 40 percent of Ethiopia's 90.8 million people are Muslim, according to the CIA World Faetbook. An estimated 43 percent are Ethiopian Orthodox and 18.6 percent are Protestant. From the fourth century until 1974 [when Marxists seized power], the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was the official state church.

"There are strong Islamic bases all around Ethiopia," Turner said, referring to nations like Sudan and Somalia. "But it has historically been a 'Christian' nation. If that was going to ever change ... you're talking about a massive revolution that frankly I just don't see on the horizon anytime soon."

Meanwhile, ICC reports churches in western Ethiopia are struggling to provide members with basic necessities like food and clothing. Organizations like ICC and missions agency SIM are providing emergency relief ....
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Franklin Graham: World's Christians in Grave Danger
Chris Gonsalves and Kathleen Walter
Newsmax - Friday, 18 Mar 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood  .... has infiltrated the U.S. government at the highest levels and is influencing American policy in a way that leaves the world's Christians in grave danger, warns internationally known evangelist Franklin Graham.

"The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active here in our country," Graham tells Newsmax. "We have these people advising our military and State Department. We've brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries."

"It's like a farmer asking a fox, 'How do I protect my hen house?'"

That same Muslim Brotherhood is fomenting much of the rebellion and the deteriorating social order roiling the Middle East, forcing millions of Christians to flee for their lives, says Graham, son of beloved evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, and founder of The Samaritan's Purse international charity.

"Under [Egypt's Hosni] Mubarak and [Jordan's] King Hussein and other moderate leaders, Christians HAD been protected," Graham says." 11 million Christians live in Egypt, and I fear for them, because if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, you're going to see a great exodus of Christians. Same thing in Tunisia and Lebanon. I fear for the church because the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be a very terrible thing."

A new report from the Roman Catholic aid agency Aid to the Church in Need supports Graham's contention that the persecution of Christians world-wide has worsened EXPONENTIALLY in the past few years.

According to the report, Christians face increased suffering in 22 countries around the world, with IRAQ, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Nigeria being among the WORST countries to be a Christian in today.

The persecution has gotten MARKEDLY WORSE OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS according to the organization.

"The PROPORTION of countries with a WORSENING track-record of anti-Christian violence and intimidation would be higher were it not for the fact that in many cases the situation could scarcely have been worse in the first place" the report's authors wrote.

More than 75 percent of religious persecution in the world is currently being carried out against Christians, the report concludes.

The Vatican formed a special committee late last year to address the flight of Christians and the rise of militant Islam in the Middle East. In his New Year's message, Pope Benedict XVI said Christians suffer more than any other religious group because of their faith.

Asked if President Barack Obama was doing enough to protect Christians at home and abroad, Graham says, "No. If anything it's the opposite."

"Muslims are protected more in this country than Christians," he says. "The president has made many statements but he doesn't back them up. We have to do more to protect the Christians in the Muslim world. Their lives are in danger."

In recent weeks, Obama administration officials have stepped up the defense of their inclusive stance toward Muslims in their ranks. Deputy national security advisor, Denis McDonough, said last week that President Obarna is actually trying to prevent terrorism by "dispelling the myths that have developed over the years, including misperceptions about our fellow Americans who are Muslim."

"When it comes to preventing violent extremism and terrorism in the United States, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, you're part of the solution," McDonough said at an interfaith forum in Sterling, Va.

Graham, however says what Obama is really doing is "giving Islam a pass" rather than speaking openly about the "horrific" treatment women and minorities receive.

"We certainly love the Muslim people," Graham said in an earlier interview with Newsmax. "But that is not the faith of this country. And that is not the religion that built this nation. The people of the Christian faith and the Jewish faith are the ones who built America, and it is not Islam." [Emphasis added].

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