Sunday, January 22, 2012

INDONESIAN GKI YASMIN CHURCH SERVICES DISRUPTED AGAIN BY RADICAL ISLAM



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A crowd of Muslim hard-liners disrupted about 100 members of the GKI Yasmin congregation as they held divine services at a member's home in Bogor, West Java on Sunday.

"We were conducting our worship at one member's home before people from Forkami and Garis came to our place," GKI Yasmin spokeswoman Dwiati Novita Rini told The Jakarta Post over the telephone on Sunday.

Dwiati said she did not know why the groups - the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) and the Muslim Communications Forum (Forkami) - were protesting.

The congregation resisted efforts by about 50 Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officers to stop their service, Dwiati said.

"The Satpol PP came around 9 a.m. and were trying to stop our activity because they didn't want any clashes to happen. [House of Representatives member] Lily Wahid was negotiating with one of the Satpol PP officers and the congregation could continue worship," she said.

The congregation completed their service peacefully around 10 a.m. and the demonstrators from Forkami and Garis left the congregation member's home around 11 a.m, Dwiati added.

The Bogor City administration, citing permit application problems, has barred the congregation from from conducting religious services for more than two years, defying a 2010 Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing the congregation's right to hold services at its church building.

JAKPOST

Monday, January 9, 2012

CHRISTIANS WARNED BY ISLAMIST MILITANTS IN NIGERIA TO LEAVE NORTH WITHIN 3 DAYS

BOKO HARAM MEMBERS


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The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has issued an ultimatum giving Christians living in northern Nigeria three days to leave the area amid a rising tide of violence there.

CNN reports that Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, also said late Sunday that Boko Haram fighters are ready to confront soldiers sent to the area under a state of emergency declared in parts of four states by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday.

“We will confront them squarely to protect our brothers,” Abul Qaqa said during a telephone call with local media. He also called on Muslims living in southern Nigeria to “come back to the north because we have evidence they will be attacked.”

CNN said that recent weeks have seen an escalation in clashes between Boko Haram and security forces in the north-eastern states of Borno and Yobe, as well as attacks on churches and assassinations. Nearly 30 people were killed on Christmas Day at a Catholic church near the federal capital, Abuja — a sign that Boko Haram is prepared to strike beyond its heartland.

Human rights activist Shehu Sani told CNN that the latest Boko Haram threat is credible, but many Christians born and raised in the north have nowhere else to go.

“The killings will continue,” he said, and Boko Haram may respond to the state of emergency by taking its campaign of violence to areas not yet affected.

Sani said the state of emergency and an enhanced presence of the security forces would not improve the situation, alleging that troops had already been involved in human rights abuses and had done little to reduce violence.

CNN explained that Nigeria has almost equal numbers of Christian and Muslims, with the south predominantly Christian. Boko Haram and other Islamic groups claim the north has been starved of resources and marginalized by the government of Jonathan, who is a Christian.

Boko Haram (which according to the group means “Western civilization is forbidden”) is demanding the imposition of Islamic sharia law across Nigeria.

CNN goes on to say that Christian leaders have demanded a stronger response to the attacks from the government and the Muslim community. Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, complained last week that the response of Islamic leaders had been “unacceptable and an abdication of their responsibilities.”

“The Christian community is fast losing confidence in government’s ability to protect our rights,” Oritsejafor said.

David Cook of Rice University, who has studied the rise of Boko Haram, said that “if radical Muslim violence on a systematic level were to take hold in Nigeria … it could eventually drive the country into a civil war.”

CNN said corruption, poverty and a lack of government services have helped Boko Haram gain support, especially among young Muslims out of work. So has a perception that the Muslim north has been marginalized by a political establishment drawn largely from the Christian south.

Cook says the group has been responsible for at least 45 major attacks, which have included assassinations — frequently using gunmen on motorbikes — and, more recently, suicide bombings beyond its northern heartland.

Beyond the security forces and Christian targets, it has assassinated Muslim clerics who oppose the group, and even killed a prominent Boko Haram member who had attended talks to explore a truce. Boko Haram’s presence in the city of Maiduguri has made it almost ungovernable, according to analysts.

Analysts say its ability to inflict mass casualties has grown fast. In August, a suicide bomber struck the U.N. building in Abuja, killing 23 people. In November, some 150 people were killed in a series of bombings and shootings in Damaturu, capital of Yobe state.

CNN also stated the commander of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Carter Ham, has suggested Boko Haram may have developed links with other Islamic jihadist groups in the region, especially al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Sani agrees, and says Boko Haram’s leaders have established sanctuaries across the desert borders in Niger and Chad, out of reach of the Nigerian security forces.

CNN added that the former U.S. ambassador in Nigeria, John Campbell, says that Boko Haram is able to finance itself “through bank robberies and is arming itself by thefts from government armories and purchases — there is no shortage of weapons on the market.”

Less than two months ago, President Jonathan described attacks by Boko Haram as a temporary setback, which would soon be a thing of the past, CNN said.

CNN said Jonathan now appears to see the group as a lethal threat that demands the full attention of the security services. But since Yusuf’s death, Boko Haram has had no obvious leader or structure, and appears to act as loosely connected cells. And it is feeding on deep-seated grievances that the government seems unable to address.

According to CNN, Cook warns that “as more and more territories become ungovernable, such as Maiduguri, then Muslims more and more will want to join Boko Haram, if only because it represents the one group that can actually project power and hold out the illusion of security to the people.”


ASSIST News Service

ANTI-CHRISTIAN INCIDENTS NEARLY DOUBLED IN INDONESIA IN 2011

SUNDAY WORSHIP AT STREET NEAR CHURCH BECAUSE CHURCH IS SEALED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT


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Acts of violence and intolerance against Christians in Indonesia almost doubled in 2011, with an Islamist campaign to close down churches symbolizing the plight of the religious minority.

The Indonesian Protestant Church Union, locally known as PGI, counted 54 acts of violence and other violations against Christians in 2011, up from 30 in 2010.

The number of such incidents against religious minorities in general also grew, from 198 in 2010 to 276 in 2011, but the worst is perhaps yet to come if authorities continue to overlook the threat of extremism, said a representative from the Jakarta-based Wahid Institute, a Muslim organization that promotes tolerance.

Rumadi, who goes by a single name, said his Wahid Institute also observed an attempt to institutionalize intolerance in this archipelago of about 238 million people, of whom about 88 percent Muslim. At least 36 regulations to ban religious practices deemed deviant from Islam were drafted or implemented in the country in 2011.

A Jakarta-based civil rights group, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, noted that both the government and groups in society were responsible for the incidents, with the main violators including religious extremist organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

Indonesia’s hot-bed of extremism is West Java, the most populous province that includes the nation’s capital city of Jakarta. This province alone witnessed 160 incidents against religious minorities. In the 1950s, West Java was the base of an Islamist group, Darul Islam, whose splinter groups are still active, fighting the “secular” government and religious minorities.

Church Closures
Churches in West Java, which has about 520,000 Christians, also suffered the most last year. On Christmas Day, two churches in West Java’s Bogor city bore the brunt of growing extremism.

“Islamist vigilantes screamed and yelled at us and threatened us, as we sought to hold a Christmas service,” a leader of the Gereja Kristen Indonesia, also known as the GKI or the Yasmin Church, told Compass in an email.

“We could not hold Christmas service in our own church for a second year,” said the source, who requested anonymity.

The city administration, allegedly under pressure from local extremist groups, sealed off the half-constructed building of the church, situated in the Taman Yasmin housing complex on a street named H. Abdullah Bin Nuh, in 2010. Before Christmas that year, the Supreme Court ordered the city mayor, Diani Budiarto, to unseal the church building, and later an ombudsman also recommended the same, but the official refused to oblige. The church has held worship services on a sidewalk, with police cordoning off the compound, since April 2010.

On Dec. 25, church members insisted they wanted to celebrate Christmas in the building, which is legally theirs, but police prevented them from even going near the structure, the source said. The congregation met in a church member’s home.

Showing solidarity with the church were members of Ansor, youth wing of one of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU); interfaith activists, including the sister and youngest daughter of former president Abdurrahman Wahid; and members of the Asian Muslim Action Network. But they could do little to help.

“The police first allowed the vigilantes to stand next to us, and then moved them just about three meters away,” the church leader said. “The vigilantes issued threats to us, but the police did not arrest them.”

Having overseen the sealing of the Yasmin church, Muslim extremists are now targeting a 2,000-member Catholic church in Bogor city’s Parung area. The Santo Joannes Baptista (St. John the Baptist) church was able to hold its mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a Christmas Day service, although authorities had formally ordered the church to stop all activities.

The church building was constructed six years ago, but days before Christmas the head of Bogor district, Rachmat Yasin, issued the cessation order arguing that its construction violated planning rules due to its proximity to a residential area. Soon after the order, a group called the Muslim Community of Parung Bogor placed a banner near the church, stating that it was in support of Rachmat’s move to ban church activities, according to The Jakarta Globe.

“The site is not for a church, but it was a house turned into a house of worship. It is a violation,” Rachmat told the daily. “Moreover, they worship on a regular basis. It is a mistake.”

The head of the Indonesian Bishops Conference, Benny Susetyo, said there had been no conflict between the church and the people living in its vicinity for six years.

“The problem arose when a group of people started to disturb the calm in the region around the house of worship,” he told The Jakarta Globe.

Susetyo added that district authorities had repeatedly rejected demands made by the church for a permit, without giving any reason.

“This is despite us having clearly followed the procedure for the construction of houses of worship.”

Islamist groups have demanded a similar action against five other churches in Pracimantoro town in Central Java province, the source added. These churches – Pentecostal Church of Indonesia in the Ngalu Wetan area, Church of all Nations and Bethel Tabernacle Church in the Gebangharjo area, Javanese Christian Church in the Godang area, and Nazarene Christian Church in the Lebak area – have operational permits to hold church services. They had applied for building permits, but authorities never responded.

Central Java is also a hub of Islamist extremists. Last Sept. 25, a suicide bomber said to be an Islamist terrorist blew himself up at the gate of the Sepenuh Injil Bethel Church (Bethel Full Gospel Church) in Solo city, injuring about 20 people.

Sealing of church buildings and the refusal to grant building permits top the list of major violations of Christians’ religious rights in Indonesia, according to the Setara Institute. A 2006 joint ministerial decree requires signatures from congregations and residents living nearby, as well as approval from the local administration, to build a house of worship.

Government Inaction
The Setara Institute criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for inaction. The president urged people to be tolerant in at least 19 of his speeches in 2011, but he has not backed his words with action, it noted in a recent report.

Intolerance has steadily been increasing in Indonesia, whose constitution is based on the doctrine of Pancasila – five principles upholding the nation’s belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all.

The Setara report cited a February incident in which a mob of about 1,500 Muslim extremists brutally killed three members of the Ahmadiyya community, which is seen as heretical by mainstream Muslims, in the province of Banten near West Java.

“Cases of intolerance have intensified this year, numbering more than last year, and at the core of the problem is poor law enforcement by the government,” Setara deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos told The Jakarta Globe.

COMPASSDIRECT

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Breaking News : 'US deploys troops in Israel for Iran war'



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The US military is preparing a massive military campaign against Iran, sending thousands of American troops, warships and weaponry to Israel. 

 
An unnamed source said the military deployment of US anti-missile ships and accompanying support personnel will occur in January and later this spring, Global Research reported.

Commander of the US Third Air Force based in Germany Lt.-Gen Frank Gorenc said it is not just an "exercise," but a "deployment," The Jerusalem Post said.


Washington and Tel Aviv have planned to hold what they call the largest-ever joint military exercise this spring.


The US commander visited Israel two weeks ago to confirm details for “the deployment of several thousand American soldiers to Israel.”


The US General also visited one of Israel's three Iron Dome anti-missile outposts. The Israeli Air Force has announced plans to deploy a fourth Iron Dome system in coming months.


While US troops will be stationed in Israel for an unspecified amount of time, Israeli military personnel will be added to United States European Command (EUCOM) in Germany.


This is while the US is reportedly bringing its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and ship-based Aegis ballistic missile systems to Israel.


The White House has resumed its anti-Iran war rhetoric after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report in November, in which Tehran was accused of conducting activities related to developing nuclear weapons. Iran strongly dismissed the allegations.


US analyst Robert Parry said the documentary evidence showed that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano was installed with the support of the US and that he privately indicated to US and Israeli officials that he would help advance their goals regarding Iran.


In December, Iran's Navy launched massive 10-day military drills in the strategic Strait of Hormuz to show that the country is ready to defend itself against any attack.


"We wanted to send this message to certain powers that Iran is always prepared to defend itself against foreign aggression," Iran's Navy Deputy Commander Admiral Amir Rastegari told Press TV.


Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama on Saturday signed into law fresh economic sanctions, targeting Iran's Central Bank and financial sector.


Anti-Iran measures provoked by the US and Israel are aimed to deny Iran's right of having peaceful nuclear program.


Tehran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, has repeatedly stated that its nuclear activities are solely for civilian purposes.




Presstv

Friday, January 6, 2012

CHURCH BOMBINGS ARE DECLARATION OF WAR, SAY NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS



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Head of Christian group criticises Muslim leaders and government for failing to intervene after series of deadly attacks

Christian leaders in Nigeria have accused Muslims of making a "declaration of war" after a series of fatal attacks, raising fears of sectarian conflict.

Islamist militants targeted churches in a series of explosions on Christmas Day, leaving more than 40 people dead and dozens wounded. On Tuesday a Christian couple and their one-year-old baby were shot dead.


Stirring tensions further, on the same day unknown attackers lobbed a crude homemade bomb into an Islamic school in Delta state, wounding seven people including six children in an Arabic class.

Nigeria is largely divided into a Muslim north and Christian south, although members of the two faiths live everywhere across the country, do business together and intermarry.

With the shadowy Islamist sect Boko Haram stepping up deadly attacks in recent months, Christian leaders have warned that they will take action to protect themselves.

At a meeting with the president, Goodluck Jonathan, on Wednesday, Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella group for all denominations, said Christians had become victims of "Islamic jihad".

"It is considered as a declaration of war on Christians and Nigeria as an entity," Oritsejafor said. He did not want to encourage acts of revenge, he said, but "Christians should protect themselves … in any way they can".

Oritsejafor criticised Muslim leaders and the government for failing to intervene. "CAN has found the responses of … Islamic bodies on this matter to be unacceptable and an abdication of their responsibilities. The Christian community is fast losing confidence in the government's ability to protect our rights," he said.

"The consensus is that the Christian community nationwide will be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches and property."

Jonathan, a Christian, promised to do more to combat the threat of Islamists and hinted at a reshuffle in his security services.

"We will restructure … and make sure we get a team that will meet with the challenge we are facing today," he said. "I will plead with religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian leaders, to work together."

On Tuesday, Nigeria's main Muslim cleric, the sultan of Sokoto, denounced the Christmas Day attacks and called for calm. "I want to assure all Nigerians that there is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity," he said.

But tensions are running high in the nation's so-called middle belt, where north and south meet. On Tuesday night in a village near the city of Jos, in Plateau state, a Christian couple and their one-year-old child were murdered in an attack blamed on Muslim herdsmen.

Last week Boko Haram was involved in heavy gun battles with government forces in the north-eastern city of Damaturu. The clashes displaced 90,000 people and the entire district of Pompomari emptied as residents fled, an official said.

Boko Haram, dubbed the Nigerian Taliban, is seeking to implement strict sharia law across Nigeria. The group has caused bloodshed two Christmases in a row and is responsible for at least 504 killings this year alone, according to a count by the Associated Press.

Boko Haram claimed three bomb attacks on churches this Christmas, including one that killed 27 worshippers in a Catholic church near the capital, Abuja, and one in Jos. Abu Qaqa, a spokesman for the group, was quoted in the local press on Wednesday as saying the bombs were revenge for attacks in Jos by Christian youths on Muslims during an Islamic holiday in August.

In Jos, Reuters reported, local Muslims are wary of a possible Christian backlash. "We are just beginning to live in peace, so we hope our Christian brothers can help us keep that peace," said Mohammed Kabir, who like many Nigerian Muslims resents being associated with violent extremism. "Boko Haram is not all Islam."

Last year the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi proposed that Nigeria be divided into two countries to avoid religious conflict. The idea was dismissed with contempt at the time: all northern states have substantial Christian minorities and up to half of Nigeria's south-western Yoruba ethnic group are thought to be Muslim.

But now Gaddafi's radical solution resonates with some Christians. Papa Jimba, 46, leader of the Christian community in a Jos neighborhood, told Reuters: "Let us divide Nigeria. The Muslims go to their side and the Christians stay on our side. Then peace can come back. I'm even praying for that."

The Rev Philip Mwelbish, head of CAN for Plateau state, said: "People thought Gaddafi was mad, but I've started to see the sense in what he said. If we can't exist together with our Muslim brothers, then they can build their houses over there, and we build ours here.

"We have a proverb in Nigeria: if you push a goat to the wall, he will bite you. They've pushed us to the wall."

GUARDIAN

Friday, November 11, 2011

IRAN TO 'POWERFULLY' RESPOND TO A US ATTACK

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Iran will respond “powerfully” to any attack by the US and Israel, said Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said Thursday.

“The enemies, especially the United States and the Zionist regime (of Israel) should know that Iran does not aggress any country, but will respond to any aggression (on the Islamic Republic) and even to any threats (to the country) powerfully,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Khamenei as saying while addressing Iranian army students.

“Anybody who may think of aggression on the Islamic republic should make itself ready to receive strong slaps and iron fists from the Iranian Army, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, (the voluntary forces of) Basij and in one word, from the great Iranian nation,” he said, Xinhua reported.

Khamenei called on Iran’s armed forces to be prepared to defend the country.

Khamenei’s remarks came amid reports that the western countries and Israel may launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities after the IAEA’s latest report accused Tehran of engaging in activities related to the development of nuclear weapons.

According to the IAEA report, Iran continued its nuclear weapons research and technology development evven after 2003, when it declared a halt in its nuclear programme. It states that Iran had temporarily frozen nuclear activities, but that there was evidence the programme continued to be carried out at a more modest pace.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called IAEA head Yukiya Amano a US puppet.

THAINDIAN

KEEP SMILING TO LOOK YOUNG

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While many women may feel a face-lift or anti-ageing creams are the only ways to look young, a study has suggested it is the smile that holds the key to looking younger than one’s actual age.

According to German researchers, the simple act of smiling takes years off a person’s age. It is likely we consider people who are happy as being attractive in other ways - including being younger than they actually are, Daily Mail reported.

Temporary wrinkles caused due to grinning also make it more difficult to judge a person’s age and so may lead to those doing the guessing to err on the side of caution.

Manuel Voelkle, of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, asked over 150 men and women of different ages to judge the ages of the faces in more than 1,000 photographs.

He concluded: “Facial expressions have a substantial impact on accuracy.

“Relative to other facial expressions, the age of neutral faces was estimated most accurately, while the ages of those displaying happy expressions was most likely under-estimated.”

The study also revealed that the older faces are more difficult to judge than the younger ones.

The age of those doing the judging was also important. In general, elderly people overestimated the age of those photographed, while younger people shaved a year or two off.

Women also fared better, with older female faces estimated on average to be three years younger than their male equivalents, the journal Psychology and Aging reports.

THAINDIAN