Thursday, April 13, 2006

Some Cruelties in April

Ernest Hemingway introduces the following story with his story, "On the Quai at Smyrna."

In 1922 when the Ottoman Empire collapsed at last Turkey and Greece 'exchanged populations.' Today we call it ethnic cleansing. Not long ago we called it genocide. But if Muslims do it we say nothing at all from fear of racism, from fear of giving offense. Yes, it all started in 1922.

But no, this story begins in 1453.

Constantinople fell, a Christian city, the capital of the Christian Byzantine empire, to Islam, conquered by Sultan Mehmed II, on Tuesday, May 29, 1453. Hemingway came later. We come later still. The battle is still going on, though it barely registers now because the Christians are nearly all gone. Those few left won't live much longer. And Turkey demands entry into Europe-- again.

Turkey is in Europe already. We have three stories below showing the state of our current world. It is one of dhimmitude. It is one of neglect of our cultures and our nations. It is one of Islamic triumphalism on the march.

No, history doesn't stand still even for the course of an evening: there is more added, and if there were world enough and time there could well be a host of other stories. Tommorow there will be more. This willl not end till we ourselves stop it.

We'll look at the nature of Islam as it spreads and takes root. It is a choking vine.

Dispatch from the Eurabian Front: Germany, Sweden, Belgium
From the desk of Paul Belien on Mon, 2006-04-03 15:12

The teachers of a German college, the Rütli-Hauptschule in the Berlin borough of Neukölln, have asked the authorities to close down their school. Last Thursday the school called in the police to protect the few native German students remaining in the predominantly immigrant school, where over 80% of the students are not of German origin. The German students and the teachers say that they are being terrorised by armed and violent thugs, who call them "racists" and treat Western girls and women as if they are "whores" and "sluts." Last week, after several serious incidents, the teachers wrote an open letter asking the Berlin authorities to close down the college and distribute the students among other schools.

Following the appeal of the staff at Rütli College several other schools in Berlin and other German cities complain that they are facing similar problems. Volker Kauder, the leader of the Christian-Democrat group in the German parliament, comments that the situation in the schools indicates "the unwillingness of many young foreigners to integrate in German society." Edmund Stoiber, the leader of the Bavarian Christian-Democrats, said yesterday that immigrants who do not want to integrate will have to be expelled.

Violence at a Berlin school has prompted calls in Germany to overhaul the country's education system and provide better integration for immigrant children.

Pictures of hooded pupils pelting journalists with heavy cobblestones and police officers lining the entrance of the Ruetli school in the heavily Turkish and Arab Neukoelln district of Berlin have filled primetime news since Thursday.

Four weeks ago, teachers at the Ruetli school sent a desperate letter to state authorities asking for help and the closure of their current school."

Any help for our school could only improve the situation," the teachers wrote, saying they had been attacked by pupils and that many would only enter a class room with their mobile phones switched on to be able to call for assistance immediately.

"Looking ahead, the school as it is should be dissolved in favor of a new one with a completely different setup," the teachers added.

At Ruetli school, more than 80 percent of the children are foreigners (Turks and Arabs at most), the teachers said in their letter.

Experts said the violence showed that Germany had failed to integrate immigrant children in its school system and pondered the abolishment of this lowest school level.


Fear Prevails after Priest's Murder

By Annette Grossbongardt

Christians are a vanishing minority in predominately Muslim Turkey. The murder of a priest in February shows that the situation has become precarious -- both for Catholics and for Turkey's EU bid.

Father Pierre Brunissen is deeply immersed in thought as he bumps along in the night bus along the Black Sea coast from Samsun to Trabzon in northern Turkey. There is, on this trip, little for the priest to be happy about. He is hurrying to a Christian congregation in Trabzon -- a city of 250,000 Muslims -- which boasts barely a dozen members. And he is needed because the former priest in Trabzon, Father Andrea Santoro, was murdered in his church.

It's a church which is now casting about for a caretaker. In the vicarage, which gives off a distinct air of neglect, a small plastic tree left over from Christmas gathers dust in the visiting room. Because no one volunteered to replace the murdered priest, the 75-year-old Father Pierre was instructed to travel the 250 kilometers by bus from Samsun to Trabzon once a month to look after things in the city's tiny congregation.

The Catholic Santa Maria Church was founded by Capuchin monks 150 years ago. Santoro had the church restored, and now colorful ornaments and images of the saints once again grace the building's walls and ceilings. But in early February, Santoro was shot dead by two gunshots while he was praying in the last pew of the church. The first shot penetrated his lung and the second went straight to his heart. In the dark wood of the pew, a splintered mark made by one of the bullets can still be seen. On this day, Father Pierre will celebrate the first mass in the church since Santoro's murder, but the church bells remain silent -- there is nobody there to ring them.

Christians are a tiny, tolerated minority in Turkey, a country which is 99 percent Muslim , and the Catholic priest is wary of being too conspicuous. He even advises the members of his congregation in Samsun not to wear any visible symbols of their faith, such as a cross dangling on the outside of a blouse or shirt.

"Murdered priests aren't good for Trabzon"

"We have nothing against Christians," says Volkan Canalioglu, the mayor of Trabzon. "On the contrary, we respect other religions; after all, Turkey is home to many cultures." A giant Turkish flag hangs in his office, and he is a member of the Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi or CHP) founded by Kemal Atatürk, which promotes the secular legacy of the founder of the modern Turkish state. "You will find no one in Trabzon who approves of this horrible deed."

The vice president of the local soccer team, Trabzonspor, is also upset about the incident. "We were playing a match in Ankara when the murder happened. We won the match, but we couldn't really enjoy our victory," says Hasim Sayitoglu. "Headlines about murdered priests aren't good for Trabzon or for us." Sayitoglu grew up not far from the Santa Maria Church, although he says he doesn't know a single Christian.

Trabzon, an ancient trading city that now hopes to develop a thriving local tourist industry, places little value on its Byzantine heritage. There are many churches and monasteries dating from centuries of Byzantine Christian rule, although most have since been converted into mosques. During the great population exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923, almost 1.5 million Orthodox Christians were expelled from Asia Minor and replaced by 356,000 Muslims from Greece. As a result of the mass murder and expulsion of the Armenians in World War I, the country had already lost almost a million Christians. The result was an almost entirely Muslim state.

Turkey is still home to about 100,000 Christians. Their status is one of the barometers being used to determine Turkey's suitability for European Union membership, making the murder of Father Santoro especially inconvenient for the administration in Ankara, which is rooted in Islam but is doing its utmost to portray Turkey as tolerant and liberal-minded. "The gunshots were not just aimed at Santoro, but also at the atmosphere of stability Turkey enjoys today," says Interior Minister Abdülkadir Aksu. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül describes the murder as an "isolated case."

But isolated cases have been on the rise in Turkey. Churches have few rights.
Recently a young man attacked a monk and a priest with a kebab knife in a Catholic monastery in Mersin, a small city on the Mediterranean. "We are no longer safe here," says the Vicar Apostolic for Anatolia, Luigi Padovese. "Until now, Mersin was one of our most peaceful congregations." Nowadays, the bishop never travels without bodyguards, a precaution the interior ministry has practically forced him to accept.

Shortly after the murder in Trabzon, nationalist youth attacked a Catholic priest in Izmir. They grabbed him by the neck and shouted: "We will kill you!" and "Allahu akbar! God is great!" The priest barely made it to safety. After the incident, police officers were routinely posted in front of the church in Izmir, a measure that had already been taken in other cities.

Turkey's Christian minorities had hoped that reforms introduced by the administration of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan -- as part of its effort to gain EU membership -- would not just lead to a few improvements, but to complete religious freedom. Although Christians are permitted to practice their faith freely, in many cases their churches have practically no rights and often have no claim to the property they stand on.

When Bishop Padovese requested work permits for two church employees in Trabzon, the interior ministry denied his request, arguing that because a Catholic Church doesn't exist in Turkey, it cannot file requests. "That's the paradox," says Padovese, "We are here, but legally we don't exist." It was not until recently that pastors, who were previously registered as consular employees, have been allowed to register as members of their own profession.

"The basic level of anti-Christian sentiment has increased," says Felix Körner, a German Jesuit whom the Vatican sent to Ankara to encourage a Christian-Islamic dialogue. Turkey's efforts to enter the EU have triggered nationalist counter-reactions, says Körner. "Even in educated circles, people are saying that Turkish unity and national sovereignty are in danger."

Risking physical attack

Conspiracy theories have likewise been making the rounds in Turkey for some time, producing a climate in which Christians distributing the New Testament risk being physically attacked. In a sermon against missionaries it distributed last year, the state religious authority rails against what it calls "modern crusades," claiming that their goal is to "turn our young people away from the Islamic faith."

Priests have been accused of seducing women in their churches or encouraging young people to engage in sinful acts. Father Pierre has already won four court cases for libel against defendants who had spread rumors that he routinely watches porno films with young people. To protect himself, he now maintains the best possible relations with the local Turkish hierarchy, routinely paying visits to the chief of police, the governor and the mufti. "It helps," he says.

Sixteen-year-old Oguz, Andrea Santoros's suspected murderer, is currently being held under high security at the Trabzon prison. Four bodyguards have been assigned to the boy to prevent him from harming himself or being silenced by others. He has refused to make any statements.

Was Oguz truly trying to avenge the humiliation of Muslims who saw the Danish cartoon controversy as an affront to their prophet, as his family claims? Or was the murder the work of the Mafia, which was incensed over the church's practice of giving shelter to Russian prostitutes? Or perhaps the boy, apparently a loner, was a willing tool for nationalist extremists.

According to his family, Oguz, a high-school student, had recently become "very religious." "He prayed five times a day," says his brother Alpaznar. His father, who runs a dental laboratory in Trabzon, claims that he first heard about the Muhammad cartoons from his son. "He was very upset, but I told him that it was none of his concern."

The father, pale and bald, is constantly jumping up from his chair, nervously rubbing his hands. He doesn't have a photo of his son, holding up a newspaper clipping instead. "I feel bad for the boy," he says, sounding almost as if "the boy" weren't his own child.

Closed for a month

Oguz apparently spent most of his time in an Internet café in a small shopping center in downtown Trabzon. "He was especially fond of strategy games," says the owner, Senol Sahin, adding that the boy had recently become very aggressive. "He would send me e-mails in which he used vile language. I even hit him once for doing it." Sahin believes the boy is "easily influenced."

On the morning of the murder, Oguz apparently came home and asked for directions to the Santa Maria Church. Then, according to his father, he left the house with his younger brother. The murderer must have known his way around, because the churchyard one passes through to reach the church lies in the middle of a group of buildings, and is in full view of half a dozen apartments, many displaying the Turkish flag in their windows.

The priest's young Italian housekeeper, startled by the shots, claims that she saw a silhouette, and that it was that of a man, not a boy.

The church remained closed for one month. Meanwhile, Bishop Padovese has sent two lay assistants and a visiting Polish pastor to Trabzon, so that the church can be kept open at least two or three times a week for the few Christians who still live in Trabzon.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan,1518,411043,00.html

Holy Land's Christians caught in midst of conflict
12 Apr 2006
Source: Reuters

BETHLEHEM, West Bank, April 12 (Reuters) - A 76-year-old Greek Orthodox monk is beaten up by villagers, his carefully tended olive trees are uprooted and his isolated West Bank monastery is defaced with graffiti depicting nuns being raped.

The land of Jesus's birth is not always an easy place for Christians to live in 2006.

The population of Christians in the Holy Land, particularly in the Palestinian territories, is dwindling as more and more leave for a better life abroad, turning the community into a tiny minority squeezed between Muslims and Jews.

The traditional merchant class, heavily dependent on tourist money, has suffered a recession since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000 and Israel walled off Bethlehem with a barrier.

The Israelis say it is designed to stop suicide bombers and Palestinians call it a land grab.

"(Christians) are suffering from both Islamic extremists and Israeli security concerns," said Canon Andrew White, a former Middle East envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Anglican Church.While incidents as violent as the harassment of the Greek Orthodox monk are rare, life for Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has become more precarious in the past decade.

Caught in the midst of conflict, Churches have sought to help local Christians quietly by not rocking the boat and being careful over criticising the Palestinian Authority, which might be seen by some as tantamount to supporting Israel.

"The world has got to wake up to the reality of what is going on and not just view it as a political matter, taking one side or another, and realise that Christians are the people caught in between," White told Reuters.

At the time of the rise of Islam in the 7th century, Christians were a majority in the Holy Land. Until a century ago, they made up about 20 percent of the population.

Migration by the educated, middle-class Christian population was precipitated by Arab-Israeli wars in the 20th century and intensified in the past few decades as violence grew.

Today, there are about 50,000 Christians in the Palestinian territories -- about 1.5 percent of the population -- and about 100,000 Christians in Israel -- approximately two percent.

Like all Palestinians, Christians have suffered from Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Some hold leadership positions in the Palestinian Authority, others in militant factions. Most are imbued with a strong sense of Palestinian nationalism.


Corruption and lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza in the past decade have hit Christians harder than others because, as a minority, they have not been able to defend themselves easily.

Exasperated at the failure of the Palestinian Authority to act and the reticence of churches to speak up, a group of Christians in Bethlehem drew up a list of grievances that included theft of their land by Muslims, attacks and desecration of Church property.

The Christians passed the list to Church leaders, saying local authorities had done little to help.

These days Christians face extra uncertainty from the rise of the militant Islamist Hamas group, whose charter calls for the establishment of an Islamic, rather than a secular, state -- a goal that causes many Christians to have misgivings about remaining.

Since the group's election victory in January, however, Hamas officials have vowed to address Christians' grievances, kindling the hope that life might actually improve under the fundamentalist Islamic movement.

There are no accurate figures on the rate of emigration but estimates suggest about 1,000 Christians a year are leaving.

"If the situation continues, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity will become cold, empty museums," said Samir Qumsieh, a Palestinian-Christian businessman, referring to two of the holiest Christian shrines.

Throughout the Middle East, Christian scholars say, tension is rising between Arab Christians and their Muslim neighbours who see Christians as belonging to a Western World they blame for the conflict in Iraq and other regional troubles.

"Even though Christianity grew in the Middle East, the Christians are increasingly seen as being part of the West and therefore at risk at being targeted because of it," White said.

Besides the harassment of the Greek Orthodox monk in the Bethlehem area, a parish school in the West Bank city of Ramallah has been firebombed twice and a Bible study centre received threats to shut down or be burned to the ground.

"From time to time the youths of our parish are attacked by young Muslim men through forcible entry into the convent's courtyard," one Roman Catholic priest told Reuters.

Last year, Christian-Muslim rioting erupted in two West Bank towns and there were confrontations between Druze Arabs and Christians in a Galilee village in Israel.

The incidents had roots in cultural clashes over family honour -- they were sparked by anger over allegations of women being dishonoured -- as well as conflicts over land.

They were indicative of the situation faced by the dwindling Christian population in a society where the size and influence of the clan is often the final arbiter in disputes.

Infighting over theology or historical slights waters down Christian influence further."We are seen as Christians in the eyes of our Muslim countrymen and Palestinians in the eyes of Israel and the West. We lose on both fronts," said one, speaking anonymously.


In the case of the harassed monk who lives in a monastery with two nuns, the abuses have been going on for over a decade.

"One day as I tended my olive trees, they came and beat me up, very badly. They tore up my clothes. They were ready to kill me. Then they put wire fencing around me and they said we'll put the pig inside and we'll kill him because pigs are not wanted on this land," the monk said in a testimony.

Late last year, graphic drawings depicting nuns being raped were daubed on monastery property.

The Greek Orthodox Church dismissed the matter as a land dispute between neighbours. Another Church source said the Church feared its interests could be hurt if it spoke out.

Land disputes are a particular source of tension between Muslims and Christians in the Bethlehem area. Space is running short in a city largely blockaded by Israel and Muslim families are growing faster than Christian ones.

Christians complain that their appeals to Palestinian courts have fallen on deaf ears, although the land disputes have also sometimes involved Muslim landowners.

"It is not an Islamic-Christian confrontation. Historically, we have lived in peace," Qumsieh said. "They are targeting Christians because we are the weak link."

There is only an end to this at the end of Islam. We can provide examples of Islamic jihad against Nigerian Christians. Uh, did that yesterday. Or we could provide examples of jihad against Indonesian Christians. Yup, did that too. Pakistanis? Yes. And Thais, Phillipinos, and Indians. Bangaldeshis and Uzbeks. If you name a place that is not Muslim, you name a place on earth that is threatened by Muslims. Go ahead. I dare you. If you picked Iceland, so far you are one ahead. Give it time. Give me a clean, well-lighted place to write of the end of days.


Bin Le Dervish said...

Ther are much more efficient methods of elimination of weeds than there ever have been.
Whole plagues of locusts can be eliminated by aerial spraying.
Technology will find a way of tackling todays infestive problems.
One day the farmer will be regarded as hero.

dag said...

Ah yes, April is indeed the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land. I knew we were on about the same thing.