Friday, May 22, 2015

Mob of Muslims Defy Courts to Forcibly Build Mosque on Christian's Land

Government and police officials are complicit to land grab, intimidation, and infringement upon family's religious freedom and private property rights
5/21/15 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Muslim mob in Deder, Ethiopia, has attacked a Christian man and forced him out of his home on the threat of death. Local Muslims want to appropriate his land so that they can build a mosque.  Their actions are despite recent court rulings that guaranteed his property rights.

Fikere Mengistu's family has owned their land for more than 90 years, but a mob of more than 20 Muslims in Kufanzik village remain intent on forcibly building a mosque on the Mengistu farm in defiance of the law. Muslims make up the religious majority in the area. They have destroyed his fence and have looted his possessions. In addition, the local police are complicit in these attempts to steal his land.

"Their first plan was to kill my husband," Mengistu's wife, Haregewoyan, said. "Now, he has escaped from the area. We are fasting and praying for God to rescue us from this forceful action," she added.

ICC provided legal assistance to Fikere Mengistu to retain his land when Muslims previously attempted to steal it in late 2014. He won the legal battle, but now they've returned and are attempting to take it by force. The authorities are letting it happen. In the past, he has faced threats from local police officers, has been forced to pay bribes, and has been imprisoned simply because he is a Christian.

The harassment started when Mengistu built a house for his 93-year-old mother two years ago. Fearing that the village's 38 Christians would use the house to gather for prayer, dozens of Muslims began to occupy his land and would remain for weeks at a time shouting "Allahu akhbar," meaning "God is great." They even destroyed his elderly mother's home as they attempted to drive the Mengistu family off their land and use it to build a mosque. The Muslims claimed Mengistu's land belonged to the government.

However, courts at the state level (East Harerghe Zone level), and the district level (Deder) both upheld Mengistu's land title in November 2014 and April 2015, respectively. Despite the court decisions, Deder Police Commander Abadir Yuya claimed they were not valid and needed to be reviewed. Since then, the mob has continued harassing the Mengistu family.

"We did our best try to defend our faith based on the law of the country and with all our resources, including ICC budget, to pay for our legal expenses. Muslims are out of the control of the government and the law. What can we do?" Mengistu said.

The Muslim rioters have resumed construction of a mosque on the Mengistu property and have designated the structure as a voting precinct, having placed a ballot box there for the upcoming national election, Sunday, May 24. ICC's Ethiopia staffer says the mob has employed this strategy in an attempt to legally justify continued construction.

"They are expanding their new mosque and building fences," Mengistu's wife said fearfully. She remains with her five children, aged mother-in-law, and 30 other Christians praying on the property. "Please help me protect my land and secure my family and the fellow Christians," she continued.

The main culprits perpetuating the illegal construction include Zone Police representative Abdi, militia leader Heder Abdi, and District Administrator Tajur Shami, who ordered the militia to protect the project.

ICC is working with the Ethiopian Lawyers Association to advocate for the Mengistu family's property rights. Progress has stalled until after the election because government officials remain focused on election-related issues at this time.

ICC urges all concerned readers to contact East Harerge Zone Administrator Asegid at +251-91-574-44-56, the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice at +251-11-554-18-68, or Ethiopian Ambassador Girma Birru at (202) 274-4570 and express their desire for justice and protection for Mengistu and his family.

ICC's Regional Manager of Africa Troy Augustine said, "The continued harassment of the Mengistu family in Deder is unacceptable. Governing authorities in the region are charged to uphold the Ethiopian law and the decisions of the courts instead of bending to pressure from the religious majority or worse, participating in the persecution of Christians through illegal activities. These men should be stripped of their authority if they fail to uphold the Ethiopian law and religious freedom guaranteed for all Ethiopian citizens in the constitution."

This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern

Four Christian Teenagers Remain in Prison for Mocking ISIS in Egypt

The four students were ordered to be held for additional forty-five days for investigation of defaming Islam in video
05/20/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian ConcernInternational Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that four students were ordered to remain in prison in Beni Mazar, Egypt for an additional forty-five days at a hearing held today. The four were taken into custody on April 9, when their parents delivered them to the police station, following a series of riots and death threats against the students, their families, and other Christians in Al-Nasriyah village.

While on a school trip, the four students recorded  a video in which they can be seen mimicking the brutal actions of the jihadist group ISIS that brutally beheads its victims, as it did to  21 Christians on a beach in Libya, while professing religious piety.

When the video was discovered by some of those in the village violent protests broke out from April 7-10, as World Watch Monitor  reported. The imprisonment of the four students and the teacher quelled some of the protests, though a few Christian homes were still attacked with Molotov cocktails, even after the five were detained.

On April 17, a reconciliation meeting was held in which, to limit the outrage of the Muslim community and to protect them from continued attacks, Christian leaders condemned what had happened and formally banned the teacher, Gad Younan, from the village "in order to preserve his life and to calm the situation in the village," according to the document  published by World Watch Monitor.

A hearing was held on April 22 and again on May 4, in both cases the students had their imprisonment extended for an additional 15 days, one of their attorneys, Maher Nagib Hanna, told ICC. At the May 4 hearing, the judge ordered Younan to be released after paying bail of 10,000 Egyptian Pounds ($1,300). The police refused to release him for an additional ten days, Hanna told ICC, because he was banished from the village according to the reconciliation meeting on April 17, the police required his family to come and sign a vow promising that he would not return again to the village.

"My brother is a servant in the church, he served the people in the village, he didn't intend to defame Islam," Samir Younan told ICC'a Egypt Representative. Gad is now living in hiding. with his wife and two children, while waiting for the final hearing when he may be convicted and could face as much as five years on the charge of defaming Islam.

The students are set to remain in prison for another month and a half where they continue to face harassment and threats. "One of the Muslim prisoners told the students that the police stirred them against them and said to them that these Christian students insulted Islam," inciting them to harass the students, Hanna told ICC.

Today's decision to extend the imprisonment of the students came as a surprise to their legal team. "This verdict was unexpected, and the case of the teacher and the four students is considered the first contempt of religion case in Beni Mazar court," Hanna said.  "Their verdict doesn't depend on applying the law in this case, but on the climate of this case and the point of view of the judge. The judge considers that the accused committed a great crime in that they insulted his religion (Islam), so his decision depends on his personal opinion and the climate of this case and satisfying the other angry Muslims, not the law," he continued.  

Accusations of defaming Islam continue to plague Egypt even since the election of President Sisi. As ICC reported in 2014, Kerolos Shawky was charged with blasphemy for liking a Facebook page. He remains in hiding, but has been sentenced to six years in prison. Christian convert Bishoy Armia Boulos continues to languish in prison under charges of blasphemy related to his conversion to Christianity. On May 5, Michael Mounir Beshay was convicted of defaming Islam and sentenced to one year in prison.

Todd Daniels, regional manager for the Middle East said, "The continued imprisonment of these four students is a terrible miscarriage of justice and shows the need for serious reforms to fully protect the rights of Egypt's religious minorities. The change must come both from the bottom up - putting an end to violent mobs protesting outside of homes, burning property - and from the top down - a judicial system that does not act simply to quell public outrage. While Egypt has an important role to play in countering violent extremism in the region, it must address the issues of extremism it has domestically. We urge the Egyptian legal system to rule on the case of the four students and the teacher according to the law, and not merely bending to public pressure to convict."

This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What is Situational Awareness?

I listed "Situational Awareness" as one of the top ten skills that you really need to survive in a previous post. In this post, I will explain exactly what situational awareness is, and how you can develop your situational awareness.

What is Situational Awareness? 

Scott Stewart of defines situational awareness as "being aware of one's surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations." That is an okay definition as for as it goes, but is primarily limited to immediate (in both time and location), physical and external threats.

A better definition of situational awareness should incorporate the concept of "environmental scanning" from the business world (especially public relations). defines environmental scanning as "careful monitoring of an organization's internal and external environments for detecting early signs of opportunities and threats that may influence its current and future plans."

This definition looks for opportunities as well as threats. It expands the scope beyond the immediate, to include developing trends that may lead to future threats and opportunities. It includes not just danger from physical threats, but other threats (political, financial, etc.) as well. Finally, it adds the idea of not just looking at the external situation, but also the internal situation.

A Mindset, not a Skill Set

Situational awareness is more of an attitude - a mindset, rather than a skill set. It is something you need to consciously do on a continuous basis as you go about your normal day-to-day activities. Make it a habit.

There is no need for special training or specialized skills.  What is need is thoughtfulness of purpose, rather than distraction, and a willingness to pay attention and to trust your instincts (if a situation doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right). 

Realize that you need to be aware of your surroundings everywhere you go. Don't let your guard down just because you are somewhere you feel safe. Bad things don't just happen in bad neighborhoods, but can happen in good neighborhoods as well.

Know what is "normal" for where you are and what's going on around you. Pay close attention to anything that is outside the expected normal. Observe what is going own around you, and evaluate it against what you would expect to be happening.

Part of observing is being able to actually see what is going own. Position yourself to be able to see what is happening around you. This may mean seating with your back to a wall rather than turning your back on the room. It may mean seating where you can observe doors and windows. It means parking in a well-light, highly visible spot. It means avoiding dark alleys.

Don't get so focused on something (your smart phone, your I-Pod, a conversation, reading a book while waiting, that attractive lady in a mini-skirt, or whatever) that you tune out everything else going on around you. This is sometimes called focus-lock.  

Micro and Macro

There are two types of situational awareness - the micro and the macro. Both are should be practiced. Micro looks at your immediate surroundings (your neighborhood & community, your workplace, the store you're in, the people around you, the parking lot, the road you're driving on, and so forth). Macro looks at the bigger picture, such as local, regional, national and international events that may affect you in some way.

Micro: As you go about your day, maintain awareness of your physical surroundings. This is the people and activity where you are at the moment. Don't get so involved with your smart phone or I-Pod that you ignore what is going on around you. Stay aware of your immediate surroundings and any potential risks and threats. Are you parking in a highly visible, well-light location near the entrance to minimize chances of ambush & muggings?

Pay attention to the people around you and what they are doing. Is anyone acting suspicious or nervous? Is anyone loitering, or otherwise looks out-of-place? Are you making yourself a target by wearing expensive, flashy clothes & accessories, or driving an expensive car? Before getting out of a car or walking out of a building, do you look out a window first to identify possible dangers?

Macro: Stay informed of the news (local, national, global). Know your elected officials in Washington, and keep up with what they are doing. Especially pay attention to the flow of money - who are their donors?, who benefits from their efforts?, how are they spending your money? How will any pending legislation affect you? Same goes for your elected officials on the state and local level.

Know your community and how it works: Who are its local politicians, important bureaucrats, community leaders? What are the local power & water sources? How well do you know the roads in and around your community? (hint: you shouldn't need GPS or google maps to find your way around where you live without getting lost.) Do you know the "bad areas" of town to avoid? Pay close attention to economic and business news. How well is your company and industry doing? (Layoffs are never really a surprise to those paying close attention.)  Do you know how safe & stable your bank and insurance companies are? Pay attention to their bottom lines and management shake-ups to avoid nasty surprises. 

How Might It Affect Me?

When looking for future threats, ask yourself:  How might it affect me?

For example, if you here about a new shopping center to be built near your neighborhood, ask How will that new shopping center affect me? Answers might be positive - such as shorter shopping trips, more employment opportunities, and increased home value. And, the answers might  be negative, such as more traffic, higher crime, or more pollution.

Think about how the actions of the local government, such as annexations and changes in zoning laws, might affect you.

Also, consider the how changing economic conditions in your area might affect you. A local factory closing and laying off 100s of people might affect you in many ways even if you don't work there. Think through how the actions of others (government, businesses, people) might affect you.

Don't Forget the Internal

We mostly think of threats coming from outside, but often threats come from within ourselves. How is your health - physical and emotional? Are you gaining weight? Losing fitness? Developing health problems? Developing addictions or bad habits? Notice your eyesight getting worse? Are you maintaining your current job skills?  Are you learning the new job skills you need? Are you sinking into credit card debt? When is the last time your went to the gun range? Are you as good a shot as you used to be? When is the last time you had a first aid refresher course? Situational awareness needs to include an honest appraisal of yourself.

Don't forget about your stuff. Be aware of any developing problems with your home or vehicle. Are you going to need a new roof anytime soon? Are the batteries in your smoke detector getting weak? Are your car's brakes starting to squeak? 

A Few Tips from my #DailyTips Series

#DailyTip 43 – Pay attention to your surroundings. Be wary of people who look out-of-place, are loitering, or who act nervous.

#DailyTip 44 – Before getting out of a car or walking out of a building, look out a window first to identify possible dangers.

#DailyTip 45 – Always be alert to what is going on around you. Danger can pop up quickly and unexpectedly.

#DailyTip 46 – Don't get so involved with your smart phone or I-Pod that you ignore your surroundings. Always be alert.

#DailyTip 47 – Be careful who you let into your life & share your plans with. Friendship & trust should never be given lightly

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Muslim Herdsmen Have Murdered 70+ Christians in Plateau State, Nigeria in Past Month

5/15/15 Washington, DC (International Christian Concern) - More than 70 Christians have been murdered in the past month in Plateau State, Nigeria, including one pastor. The body count has piled up after at least a half dozen attacks perpetrated by Muslim Fulani cattle herders. They frequently terrorize Christian farmers in central Nigeria's "Middle Belt" states of Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Taraba, Benue, and others.

Fulani herdsmen regularly raid Christian villages opening up a hail of gunfire, burning homes and churches, and shooting their victims when they run outside to escape the fires.

"The jihadists, in their quest to eliminate Christians in Plateau State and their thirst for blood, have succeeded in killing Christians and burning their houses," said Gyang, a local man whose full name is withheld to protect his safety.

The most deadly attack occurred on May 2 when herdsmen reportedly set fire to the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) located in Foron town, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA), killing 27 Christians. The victims included Rev. Luka Gwom and a congregant named Pauline who was married just two weeks prior in the same church building.

The recent raids have all occurred in two areas of Plateau State: Barkin Ladi and Riyom LGAs. These frightening experiences have become nearly a weekly terror for Christians in the region. From April 25 to May 11, Gyang reported at least six attacks on more than eight villages, some of them targeted more than once during that time span.

"We in Riyom and Barkin Ladi LGAs have been under siege and invasion. Lives have been lost almost every day, and [there is] no serious action from any quarter by the government. But we are still faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," Gyang said as he recounted an attack that killed two members of the Rim town community as they were returning from the burial of fellow Christians who were slaughtered in a Fulani raid that happened just days before.

Sadly, this recent string of assaults is nothing new for brothers and sisters in Christ in central Nigeria. In mid-March, Muslim Fulani cattle herders massacred 82 Christians in a village in Benue State, according to Nigerian news reports. However, the secular media and Nigerian authorities have been slow to acknowledge these events as Christian persecution.

"It is the longstanding issue over grazing rights and cattle rustling between Egba and Fulani people," police spokesman Ezeala Austin said after the March attack.

Despite the historic tensions Austin cites, witnesses to the assaults often recount that the herdsmen chanted "Allahu Akhbar" during the attack, the Arabic saying, "God is Great," which has become associated with jihadist Muslim terrorism. The herdsmen also continually and specifically target Christian villages.

One Plateau State government official vaguely referenced recent incidents of cattle rustling by predominantly-Christian tribes in Wase LGA in connection to the attacks of the past month, but  reports suggest no linkage between the events. Wase LGA is located 160 miles away from Barkin Ladi and Riyom.

International Christian Concern's Regional Manager of Africa Troy Augustine said, "The world should wake up to the forgotten persecution happening all over Nigeria's Middle-Belt. Extremist Muslim Fulani herders are regularly and consciously attacking Christian villages and slaughtering our brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't know what else needs to be explained to acknowledge that these people are persecuted because of their faith. While the world rightly remembers and prays for Christians in northern Nigeria under threat from Boko Haram, let us not forget those who live under daily suffering at the hands of jihadists also happening in central Nigeria."

This article is from a press release by International Christian Concern

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why camo might be a perfect gray man disguise...

I read today another well-meaning, but wrong, article on the "gray man" disguise. It seems to have become a trend among some prepper folks to point out that camo (or black, or olive drab, or whatever), isn't really a gray man disguise - that, in fact, it makes you stand out. Well, depending on where you live, they are simply wrong.

It is true that the idea behind the gray man is to not stand out, to look like just any other Average Joe or Jane. You don't want to appear to have money or other valuables, so you don't make yourself a target of criminals. You don't want to look like you have lots of food or other supplies, so you don't make yourself a target of looters or desperate folks. You don't want to look like you are military, or police, or other official, so you don't make yourself a target of protesters or rioters. And you don't want to look like you are part of a militia group, so you don't make yourself the target of the government.

You don't want to look impressive so as to attract attention, but at the same time you don't want to appear weak, so as to attract the attention of predators. It is a balancing act. 

(By the way, you don't want to "dress down" so much that you look like a thug or criminal. That will also draw unwanted attention.)

However, looking like just any other Average Joe or Jane depends on what the Average Joe or Jane in your area looks like. If you are in the financial district of Chicago, or live in Manhattan, you will stick out like a sore thumb dressed in camo and boots. You'd probably fit in more by wearing a three-piece suit or a really nice dress. 

However, in the mountains of Western NC, where there are lots and lots of farmers, hunters, and other good ol' country boys, the Average Joe (and even the Average Jane) actually wears camo in their everyday life. This was true before Duck Dynasty, and is even more true now that the Duck guys have made camo fashionable. Go to a Wal-mart or Target near where I live, and you will see lots of folks wearing camo. It is the guy wearing a three-piece suit and Italian dress shoes that stands out here.

Other areas of the country are different. Some places you might blend in better by wearing a jersey and ball cap of the local sports team. Other places, the gray man disguise might consist of khakis, a golf shirt, and penny loafers.

The point is, the gray man disguise will vary depending on where you are. There is no one right way, or wrong way, to be the gray man. You may even need to change up your gray man disguise as you travel from place to place.

I cannot tell you how to be the gray man. Anyone who tries to say that a gray man must wear this, or cannot wear that, is simply wrong.

What you need to do is simply pay attention to those around you. How does the Average Joe dress in your area? What do they drive? And so forth... The idea is to look like the average local - neither impressive nor weak. In some areas, that might even mean wearing camo....