Friday, May 31, 2019

Review: Military-style Tactical Belt


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I've been wearing these belts exclusively for two years now with no problems whatsoever. As a prepper and outdoorsman, I lead a very active lifestyle (hiking, fishing, avid gardener, etc.) and always give my belts quite a workout. I also wear a multi-tool on my belt daily. In the past my leather belts have worn out quickly, becoming deformed, rolled, scraped up, and tearing where the holes are punched in. I even had a metal buckle break before. Two years of wearing these belts everyday, and they still look new. Absolutely no problems.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Egypt: Police Refuse to Investigate Kidnapping of Christian Woman Who Remains Missing

The following  unedited press release from International Christian Concern highlights a very real and growing problem throughout Egypt, Turkey, and all Muslim-majority countries around the world. Christian and other religious minorities face open discrimination from police and local authorities. Crimes reported by Christians, in this case a kidnapping of a woman and death threats against her children, are simply ignored by authorities just because the victims are Christian. -- Tim Gamble

Christian Woman Disappears Lower Egypt

05/30/2019 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – A Christian wife and mother of three has disappeared near Cairo after the family says Islamists kidnapped her off the streets. The family asserts that they have received threatening messages saying that they will force her to convert to Islam and if she refuses, then one of her sons will be killed. They attempted to make a report to the police, who refused to accept the case saying the woman left her home of her own free will.

The kidnapping of Christian women is common place in Egypt, particularly in Upper Egypt, where most Christians live. Islamic extremists, in some cases with the knowledge or aid of the police, kidnap the women so that they are forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. The families are often left with no clear knowledge of what happened to their wife, daughter, or sister.

However, the issue can become more complicated. Sometimes, Christian women will voluntarily leave home, convert to Islam, and marry a Muslim man. In these cases, it is common for the families to claim that she was forced to leave as the incident is viewed as a public shame. In these cases, the police are limited in their response.

It is unclear what happened in this particular instance. However, many Christians in this neighborhood believe that the police are actively engaged in Islamic extremists. Whether the woman left of her own accord or was forced by extremists under the police’s eye is still under investigation.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

China: Christian Persecution Continues

By Tim Gamble

On Sunday, May 19, China shut down yet another historic house church, this time in coastal city of Xiamen, according to various sources. More than 70 government officials were "dispatched to Xunsiding Church, claiming they needed to inspect it, and posted an administrative penalty notice. The notice, issued by the Siming District Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, accused Pastor Yang Xibo of running the church without approval and therefore violating China’s Regulations on Religious Affairs. As punishment, the bureau is fining the church 25,000 yuan ($3,622.00 USD)" (details reported by China Aid). 

"Beginning on May 19, local authorities have stationed themselves at the entrance of the church, turning away church members who wish to enter the church, while recording their personal information. On May 21, choir members were again blocked by a police-formed human chain when they attempted to enter the church for practice" (details reported by International Christian Concern).

This is the latest incident in an ongoing crackdown on Christianity by the Chinese government. Starting in 2017, this crackdown has included churches being fined and shut down, church schools being shut down, pastors and other church leaders being arrested (some of which are still "missing"), crosses being removed from public display, and other forms of harassment. 

China, which remains under strict communist control despite opening up to capitalism in recent decades, has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. The Communist Party in China, which is officially atheist, has approximately 70 million members. However, the strong growth of evangelical Christianity in China has resulted in slightly over 100 million Chinese Christians - approximately 75 million Evangelicals and 27 million Catholics. Also, the Chinese Orthodox Church, an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church, has about 15,000 members.

This situation of Christians outnumbering official Communist Party members is at least partially behind government crackdowns on Christianity over the last few years, as they seek to exercise control over Christianity in China. Communist governments, and all other collectivist regimes, demand that the citizen's top loyalty be to the State, not to God, the Church, or even the family. The State essentially sets itself up as God, and hates competition for that slot.


Pastor Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid, states “China’s oppression against house churches will not be loosened. A systematic, in-the-name-of-law crackdown will continue to take place.” 

Christians are encouraged to pray for the persecuted Church in China.

Sources:  1) Press release by International Christian Concern dated 5-24-2019; 2) Additional information from International Christian Concern; 3) Information from China Aid, via their website; 4) Statistics from the China entry of Pray for the World, a resource from Operation World, 5) Previously published original analysis by Tim Gamble.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Falsely-named "Equality Act" is a Deceptive Attack on Religious Freedom and Women's Rights

H.R. 5, the so-called "Equality Act" is scheduled to be voted on this week in the House of Representatives. Its stated purpose, in brief, is "to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation." But, as always, the devil is in the details, as the saying goes. In reality, the bill guts religious freedoms, limits parental rights, and even endangers Women's Rights. 

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Franklin Graham summed up the concern many Christians have over the so-called Equality Act: "This week Congress is scheduled to vote on H.R.5, the Equality Act, a bill that represents what is being called “the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America.”

"I and other Christian leaders wrote a letter to congressional leaders about the Equality Act. Contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to protect our families, our children, & our future by voting NO on the Equality Act."


"Congress needs to hear those who care about religious freedom loud and clear. Let’s light up the phones on Capitol Hill and the White House! Call your elected leaders about the Equality Act today at 202.224.3121."

The letter Graham and other Christian leaders sent to congressional leaders read in part: "As those tasked with the leadership of the church, and as those seeking to humbly convey Biblical truth for the benefit of every man, woman, and child in society, we the undersigned cannot remain silent concerning a dangerous bill pending in Congress known as the Equality Act (H.R. 5). Not only is it incompatible withGod’s Word(the Bible)and the historic teaching of the church, but the Equality Act is also riddled with threats to religious liberty and the sanctity of human life. For these reasons, we must state that we adamantly oppose this proposed legislation."

The letter goes on to give three main reasons the Equality Act should be defeated: 

"First, the ideology enshrined in the Equality Act—which falsely equates one’s sexual conduct with immutable characteristics like skin color and ethnicity—is a falsehood that openly contradicts the scriptural mandates we were given for our good (1 Thess. 4:3-8). We cannot remain silent and allow this lie to harm countless men, women, and children—whether in this or any other legislation. Passage of this coercive measure would lay the groundwork for this lie to enter classrooms across the nation, as public educators could be compelled to teach it to their students. No family would be safe from the long reach of the Equality Act."

"Second, the Equality Act would gut religious freedom protections—even the freedom currently enjoyed by houses of worship. Under its changes to the employment nondiscrimination provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, some houses of worship would be barred from ensuring their leaders and other employees abide by their beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and the distinction between the sexes. Women who identify as men would have to be accepted as men and therefore potentially eligible to serve in positions reserved for men (such as a Catholic Priest or Jewish Rabbi). Religious employers that fall under Title VII may be forced to offer insurance coverage for medical procedures (such as hormone therapy or surgery related to “gender transition”) that violate biblical teaching. Finally, the Equality Act would expressly do away with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s application to its provisions, thereby precluding any religious freedom claims which clergy or others might bring.Under such restrictions,the pathway for the gospel would slowly be closed off.

"Third, the Equality Act is unacceptable because it is anti-life and creates a right to demand abortion from health care providers. The termination of human life in the womb is unacceptable to any biblically and historically faithful Christian. The responsibility to care for the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40) is a fundamental responsibility of Christ’s church, and any proposal that undermines a culture of life must be rejected."

The letter can be read in full on the Family Research Council website (link opens as a .pdf).

Concerns over the confusion and vagueness of "gender identity" is causing some feminist leaders to voice criticisms of the bill, including that it would render Title IX protections meaningless, allowing transgendered men to fully participate in women's athletics and compete for women's scholarships. They also claim that the bill would expose women to sexual predators claiming gender identities in order to gain access to women's shelters, bathrooms, and locker rooms.

Even if the bill passes ther House, it faces an almost impossible battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Also, President Trump has already said he would veto the bill.
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Monday, May 13, 2019

Children Massacred in Assault on Syrian Christian Town

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern. Visit their website at https://www.persecution.org/ for more on the ongoing persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Six Dead and Eight Wounded as Heavy Shelling Targets Believers

05/13/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Syrian Christian town of al-Suqaylabiyah came under heavy assault on May 12, 2019. Five children playing near a monastery, and one woman on a nearby street, were killed as a result of heavy shelling. Eight others, including six children, were wounded. The assault against the town continues through today.

“The kids went out to play after some days of calm,” Father Maher Haddad, a local priest, told the Associated Press. The report continued, “A rocket struck near a group of children, instantly killing five and wounding others… the woman was killed in a nearby street by a separate rocket.”

The deceased children were aged between six and 10. While two of the children’s names have not been made public, the names of the other three children are Inzik Ruzuk, Suheir Jarzas, and Jessica Samardzin. The name of the woman killed is Hala Makaskas.

The author of this assault is unknown, although it was observed that the rockets were fired from nearby Idlib. Al-Qaeda affiliate Tahrir al-Sham is active in Idlib and has a history of attempting to seize Christian towns in the area of al-Suqaylabiyah. However, some believe that the rockets originated from militants backed by Turkey through the National Liberation Front. The town has suffered widespread material damage as a result of the attack.

Syrian state media says that the regime is currently retaliating against the al-Suqaylabiyah attack, although whom they are targeting is not clear. This retaliation comes in the context of the regime already having increased its own assault on Idlib through raids and the dropping of illegal barrel bombs.

“The rebel-held areas of Idlib province and northern Homs province have been under sustained attack by the Syrian regime since April 30, killing and wounding dozens while forcing some 150,000 people to flee their homes in rebel-held areas,” reported al-Araby.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the violence in the broader area has increased at an alarming pace. It said, “The death toll rises… 450 people in the period since the morning of the 20th of April 2019 until the 12th of May 2019.”
 
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The Syrian Civil War is a sad example of the indiscriminate killing of civilians and senseless violence. As the situation escalates in Idlib, many have warned that an increase of targeted massacres would be the result. It has started—with Christians paying a high cost as they are often viewed as vulnerable, second-class citizens. Their villages have become a pawn in a greater strategy for the multiple factions involved in the civil war. We must keep the families of the deceased in our prayers, and offer up continued prayers for the safety of those believers who find themselves caught between Syria’s warring sides.” 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Egypt: Another Coptic Church Forced to Close After Easter Prayers Anger Islamic Hardliners

Plight of Egypt's Coptic Christians Continues to Worsen
 
International Christian Concern (ICC), a Christian human rights organization, is reporting that on April 30, 2019, a "reconciliation meeting" was held in the Upper Egypt village of Nagib after threats of a potential Muslim mob attack led security officials to close the village’s only church. This situation escalated after it became known that the church did not have the necessary government permits to practice religious rites. 

Egypt has no grantees of Freedom of Religion, and all non-Muslim religious groups must register with the government and obtain special permits in order to meet or practise religious rites. These permits are difficult to get, and can be revoked at any time without notice or reason. Egypt’s 2016 Church Construction Law contains language which allows church legalization permits to be indefinitely delayed. Reconciliation meetings are often used to further restrict the rights of Christians to practice their faith.

Church leaders were not permitted to attend the reconciliation session in Nagib. Despite promises given before the session that the church would be reopened and permits issued, it was instead agreed that the church building would remain closed until the permits are issued at an unknown date.

“Many years ago we were praying in our houses with the priest because there was not an [existing] church,” a local Christian told Watani. “Now there are more than 400 Coptic persons in our village and the number of us increases day by day… During the last feast days (Orthodox Easter) many Copts prayed and the police had secured the building, but then the police asked Bishop Georgius to close the church because some Muslims in the village disagreed.” 

"This is a very hard situation. You can see kids praying in tears because of their feelings of fear … that is very painful for us as Christians personally. I don’t trust in the government promises, but we have to continue praying for [a] reopening [of] the church,” added another local Christian, who wished to remain anonymous.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Once again, Egyptian Christians have been denied the right to practice their faith because Islamic hardliners do not want a Christian presence in the village. The situation calls into question whether local police were adhering to the rule of law, or to the rule of the mob. By closing the church and giving in to their demands, Egyptian security officials are putting local Christians at risk of future mob violence.”

As is the situation in most Muslim-majority countries, is is difficult to obtain accurate demographic information on non-Muslim religious groups due to legal discrimination and political manipulation of census data. However, it is estimated that of Egypt's population of nearly 95 million, approximately 15% are Christian (mostly Coptic).  

Sources: 1) Press Release from International Christian Concern dated May 3, 2019.  2) Information from the Egypt entry of Pray for the World, a resource from Operation World.  3) Additional demographic information from the Wikipedia entry for Egypt.
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Turkey Still Denies Armenian Genocide, Detains Activist for Merely Mentioning It

Tim's comments: Despite Turkey's persistent denials, the Armenian Genocide was a very real historical event.  The Armenian Genocide was the systematic extermination of overt 1.5 million Armenians (Christians) by the Muslim government of the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey), from 1915 to 1923. Most of those murdered died in the network of 25 concentration camps set up by the Turks, or in forced death marches. 

The following unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) details the efforts still being made by Turkey to deny and even prevent discussion of the Armenian Genocide.  You can visit the ICC website at https://www.persecution.org/ for more on Christian persecution around the world.

Turkey Detains Armenian Activist for Referencing Genocide

Armenian Activist Arrested in Istanbul on Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day 

04/30/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on April 24, 2019, local Istanbul police detained and interrogated Turkish-Armenian activist Alexis Kalk for comments made at a memorial service which referenced the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
 
Armenians are an ethnic-religious minority belonging to the Christian faith whose human rights have been severely repressed in Turkey. The Armenian Genocide was perpetrated 104 years ago by the declining Ottoman Empire. Also known as the Armenian Holocaust, more than 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children were murdered, while countless others were displaced.

The heir to the Ottoman Empire, today’s Republic of Turkey, continues to actively deny the Armenian Genocide. The government’s narrative is that the genocide was an act of self-defense. On the anniversary of the genocide, President Erdogan tweeted that it “was the most reasonable action that could be taken in such a period.” The state’s denial of the genocide stands in contradiction to historic research and is often viewed as encouragement of further violence against Armenians.

Alexis Kalk referenced the genocide while speaking at a memorial service for Sevag Balıkçı, an Armenian murdered eight years ago on the genocide’s anniversary. During the service, Kalk called this murder a hate crime, an allegation that the Turkish courts deny. He emphasized the continued need for justice for victims of the Armenian Genocide. “We will continue the struggle for justice, equality and brotherhood for all those victims of murder, Sevag Şahin Balıkçı and those sacrificed during the Armenian Genocide,” said Kalk.

According to the Public Radio of Armenia, police detained Kalk that evening and said that they wished to discuss his remarks regarding the Armenian Genocide. He was held in custody and interrogated before being released the same day.

Sources close to Kalk say that this was an intimidation tactic intended to discourage similar remarks, as the detainment occurred just hours before a scheduled Armenian Genocide commemoration. This event was planned after the government banned commemorative activities in two other locations where these activities are traditionally held.

The genocide decimated most of Turkey’s Armenian community, erasing their historic presence. It is estimated that only 60,000 remain, and many continue to report incidents of discrimination and harassment. According to a statement by Eren Keskin, chairperson of the Human Rights Association (İHD), “Again, we are going through a period of severe human rights violations. The cursed heritage continues in new forms.” 

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In Turkey, history matters. The government not only actively denies the 1915 Armenian Genocide, it also continues with Ottoman-era policies that relegate Christians to second-class citizens. Turkish-Armenians are particularly hard-pressed on every side. The government refuses to let them grieve on commemoration day, a refusal which extends to the denial of basic human rights during all other days of the year. The genocide may have happened over 100 years ago, but its tragic consequences and the worldview which inspired it live on.”
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