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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Christianity in decline? (part 3)

This is my 3rd article in the “Christianity in decline?” series and this is one is about Islamisation of the West. It is more obvious that with the actual trends, Islamic populations in Europe can become a majority within 20-30 years and in many western European cities and countries there is already a bigger number of practicing Muslims than of practicing Christians. After I read the report of the Barnabas Fund on the islamisation of the West, I decided to write on the issue.

“Islam entered Europe twice and left it…Perhaps the next Conquest, Allah willing, will be by means of preaching and ideology…Perhaps we will conquer these lands without armies (…)” said Youssef el Qaradawi (head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research) on Al Jazeera on the 24th of Jan. 1999.

“Islam entered Europe twice and left it” Well yes, Islam entered twice, both times with armies and had to leave it, under pressure of Christian armies. 

First they entered Spain in the beginning of the 8th century, arrived to France and were defeated in Poitiers in 732 AD. 2.5 centuries later Reconquista started on Iberian peninsula and finished by the end of the 15th century. As Christian population was treated as slaves, remaining Muslims were converted to Christianity or expulsed and mosques transformed to Churches.

Then, from the other side of Europe, Ottoman Turkish tribes became Muslim in the 9th century and settled in Asia Minor, they became a major power in the region by the end of the 13th century. The lands once ruled by the Byzantine Empire became consecutively under Ottomans’ rule. Turks entered Europe in the middle of 14th century, in spite of many great victories by Europeans, most of Southeast Europe had come under Ottoman rule by the end of the 16th century. The unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683 led to the visible weakening of the Turks in Europe and the Crusaders liberated Buda (1686) and all of Central Europe many years later. Those who were converted to Islam converted back to Christianity.
By the beginning of the 20th century, national sentiments became stronger in the Balkans and most of Turkey's European territories were lost but Constantinople (now Istanbul) remained in Turkish hands as it is  until this day.
Unfortunately, political interests were stronger than religious solidarity for European leaders.
The Islamic regime itself was abolished in 1923. But, the legacy of Islamic rule remained strong in many areas like Bosnia, Albania, the Caucasus and areas inhabited by Tatars, surrounding the Black Sea.

“Perhaps the next Conquest, Allah willing, will be by means of preaching and ideology…Perhaps we will conquer these lands without armies”

Islam was weakened around World War I, a weak Islamic (Ottoman) empire, Muslim countries under western colonization, socialist/communist ideology spreading quickly among poor classes and pan-arabic movements starting to spread in arab-speaking countries.

After World War II, Europeans decided to a make an economic union in order to make war with each other impossible, the Old Continent was devastated after the destructions of the war and the way of thinking and the lifestyle changed by the 1960s. Religiosity diminished on average, women bore fewer children as women’s role in the labor market increased.
Cheap workforce was needed; migrant workers came first from Italy and Yugoslavia then from Middle-eastern countries and ex-colonies (common historical and linguistic ties). Turks went to Germany, Algerians, Moroccans and Africans to France, Indians, Pakistanis and Africans to the UK.

In the 1960s there were many hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Western Europe, which was not a problem at the time. Fertility was lowering but Europeans were still able to maintain the growth of society, immigrants didn’t bring their families at the time and state welfare benefits were not so generous.

By the end of the 1960s, there are 2 dates that can be considered as the beginning of a new era:
-1967: 3rd Arab-Israeli war. Israel defeated arab armies which were much larger in number of men and equipment and this caused a huge public outrage within Arabic populations. The arab leaders and even the arab military did not fight in a disciplined way.
By that time the people realized the Arab Nationalist idea is unable to unify Arabic speaking nations and even unable to defeat a weak and poor state like Israel which was really weaker at the time.
This date can be considered as the new start of Political Islam’s strengthening.
-1968: riots in France against the traditional social model. Daniel Cohn-Bendit led a revolt which asked for sexual freedoms and a better world as I mentioned in my previous article.

By the turn of the millennium, the Soviet threat was no longer present, Europeans had the opportunity to concentrate on economic growth and they saw that immigration could solve demographic issue. With the introduction of the single currency, there was a general conviction that there will be no wars anymore and in many decades cultural and political unity will be obvious and multicultural society, like that of the USA was an ideal anyway.
The difference is that immigration to Europe was not a selected immigration, and rights exceed duties, immigrants were encouraged to conserve their traditions and customs rather than learn the language and habits of the host country.

Nowadays, the number of Muslims reached 5,5 million in France only. In Europe their number became around 30 million. The ratio of radicals within the community is relatively much higher than in other communities and this is only one source for the conflicts between them and the host societies.
The tensions between Muslim immigrants and local people and the rise-up of extreme right movements in Europe are because of many factors, many examples just for better understanding:
  • Demographics: their number is growing much faster than other communities because fertility of Muslim women is 2.5 times higher than average women in Europe. Immigrants are gaining a bigger part in subsidies than working and paying taxes, according to extreme-right movements and several statistics.
  • Islamisation: hundreds of mosques are built in European cities, many aided by the “non-confessional” state. Oil rich countries are funding Islamic mission organisations to spread Islam among non-Muslims rather than spend on their poor classes. They want to convert non-Muslims to their religion and high, visible rate of women is wearing headscarf, many with hijab or niqab in the streets, a high number of men have beards or wear a djellaba, changing the image of the population in general. Muhammad has become the most common name for newborn boys in Belgium, London and Milan.
  • Social: unemployment is becoming a bigger problem as cheap workforce is employed rather than locals. In France the rise of the National Front is mainly due to the big number of unemployed among labor class. Another issue is the repatriation of money by immigrants to their homeland, in France the yearly amount going to countries by family transactions is estimated to be around 20 billion Euros.
  • Security: in France and the UK, most of gangs are made up of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants. A part of those who could not get well integrated into the society and don’t have a job, feel themselves discriminated by the society. There is a kind of discrimination, fear towards them in any case. In German schools, Turkish gangs are causing a huge problem to those who would like to teach and study. In the UK, gang rapes are becoming a serious problem as their number is rising.
  • Lobby in politics: Muslims are influencing internal and external politics of the host country. They are an important voter base as their number is rising and they seem very determined. Many politicians, for example Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder campaigned for the accession of Turkey to the EU to gain more Muslim votes. Parliaments and local councils are introducing lots of reforms for equal institutional rights for Islam although it is a new factor in public politics and their number is still much smaller. 

Getting back to the report, the islamisaton of the West is achieved the following way. Muslims are immigrating massively to the West, making more children and converting non-Muslims with different means.

The extreme-left, which is weakened after the fall of the Soviet Union is finding a new ally in radical Islam to fight Christianity and the market economy. They are common in their hatred of the USA. In the French presidential campaign in 2012, the Front de Gauche, which built its campaign on social justice and “confiscation” of the fortunes of the rich, has invited radical islamists many times to its meetings.

Muslims have a mission: what many converts see in Islam is that they have a struggle and fight for their right (Palestine, Chechnya, poverty etc.). Islamic mission (Da’wa)  which has 2 parts: internal and external. Internal da’wa means to revive practice of the religion, external means to preach the religion and make non-Muslims accept it.

They are building much more and much bigger mosques to show their self-confidence and their strength, extreme-right and European radical movements often accuse Muslims of show of strength by the aim of having more and bigger places of worship than Christians.

They want to introduce Islamic Sharia as western societies became mostly hedonistic and based on consumption; they see that their style of life is a solution to drug-consumption, alcoholism and prostitution.
The Islamic groups are asking more openly the public to accept their Sharia law, in East London there are some districts where radicals declared Sharia to be the official source of laws (no to gambling, music or concerts, prostitution and drugs).
As the western governments recognize these interpretations of Sharia as representing all Islam, they are strengthening radicals and weakening moderate Muslims.
Sharia courts are functioning in Britain and being introduced to Belgium, they are operated from mosques and this shows the weakness of the national “laic” arbitration system.

They are threatening free speech and make a threat of violence, the situation here is similar to radical secularists and LGBT organsiations as they require respect, tolerance and objectivity but don’t always give it to others.
The fatwa against Salman Rushdie (1989) and the killing of Theo Van Gogh (2004) show that radical Muslims represent a threat to all those who openly speak out against them.They are a threat to freedom of religion, there were many cases recently when converts from Islam to Christianity were insulted and disadvantaged in several fields.

Islamisation is financed in many ways and from many parts:
  • Individuals: Muslims donate more intensively as they use mosques more frequently than Christians use churches. There are lots of cases in the UK and in Denmark in which people gained money from tax frauds.
  • Islamic organisations: mostly charity organisations which are specialized to help the poor and women accepting to wear headscarf and spread Islamic teachings.
  • Islamic States: lots of them are oil-rich, the Gulf States had a budget surplus of nearly 500 billion USD due to high oil prices, they usually spend the funds of acquisitions done by their Wealth Funds and on charity projects. Mostly Islamic organisations are those who receive these funds. The biggest contributors are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Emirates, Qatar, Iran, Algeria and Libya.
  • Local councils: an example, Alain JuppĂ©, the current Foreign Affairs minister of France, also mayor of Bordeaux, sold 8500 sqm of land to the local Muslim council for a symbolic amount of 1 EUR. Bordeaux could have earned 677,000 EUR on market price.
  • Western European countries: In 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy asked for state funding for mosques in spite of the Republic’s secularist status. According to a report, 30% of the money the mosques received each year, was given by the Government.
  • Islamic finance: Islamic banking is as widespread in Western Europe as in the Gulf countries. Europe would like to attract rich Arab investors. London is said to be the most Sharia-friendly investment target in Europe

They are taking over education institutes and radical preachers are very active in western universities. They ask for separate prayer rooms in schools and universities and radical imams are let into universities, there are many terrorists who studied in western universities. Muslim girls are asked to wear Islamic dress.
Another issue related to this topic is the pressure on educational institutions to teach topics related to Islam in a way to give a positive image on their religion. Governments, educators and publishers who want to avoid being accused of racism and islamophobia often yield to such requests.

Their isolation and separation is making their integration and assimilation harder. There are many examples like the “gay-free zones” in the UK and Kreuzberg in Berlin which was a city-part populated by labor class and young leftists in the 1920s, today 80% of its half a million population is from Turkey. In France, the banlieues can be considered as the ghettos of the unemployed 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants, islamisation is spreading there the quickest.

And everything mentioned above is the islamisation of Europe only, I have previously written on the persecution of Christians in the Islamic territories. Just to close the listing of examples I would like to mention that the board of one of the most prestigious European football clubs, Real Madrid, decided to delete the cross from the logo of the football club to please Qatari investors (officially Muslim fans).
As the Football World Cup in 2022 will be in Qatar: 'Will England, Sweden and Denmark have to choose between the vertical or the horizontal line in their flag?', as a Hungarian blogger asked in his article stating also that this can be considered “Re-reconquista”.

“Perhaps the next Conquest, Allah willing, will be by means of preaching and ideology”
Well, it’s about ideology, preaching, money (maybe the most important) and the identity crisis of Western Europe itself.
“Perhaps we will conquer these lands without armies”
It seems very possible, but I guess there is a Christian minority in Europe that has a mission to counter this trend. 

What would the resolution be?

“Who wants to avoid suffering, suffers twice”, according to a proverb.
Many european leaders think that by bringing immigrants inside their countries, they will assure the supply of cheap workforce to the economy and save the pensions, this is irresponsibility. Many believe they have to let the immigrants into their countries as colonized nations suffered a lot from colonization, this is a widespread thinking in France which is partly true, but we have to know that the number of locals (Arabs and Berbers) in Algeria for example was many hundreds of thousands in 1830 and they were 9 million (!) in 1960. Most of the infrastructure and monuments in the country were built by the French and the Europeans. Europeans are really avoiding the responsibility after their societies are ageing and unable to sustain the retirement system and many others are accepting the fact the colonization had only bad effects and Christianity was a tool to keep people in slavery.

We Europeans have to get back our self-confidence, we have to be proud of our past, of our history, ancestors and achievements and we have to appreciate our religion and its Saints. We have to try to revive our older habits, respect of the old people, marriage, help of the relatives and general solidarity.

Most immigrants come for better careers, higher standard of living, but they don’t see Europeans have strong beliefs or identity; there are too many divorces, drugs problems, prostitution and solitude, so they prefer to conserve their habits rather then get integrated. Most Muslims are conserving their style of life, but Islamists require heavily from their entourage to get accommodated to their beliefs and habits and this is unacceptable. They have to accommodate to our style of life, but we have to respect our religion and past and they will see a positive example.

Funding of islamisation has to be stopped from the European states and institutions and from abroad and Muslims have to solve their finances themselves as other communities do. That will diminish tensions. Muslims have to realize they should not be advantaged even if their number will double in 25 years. There are few statesmen who have the courage to take the responsibility in this issue as lobbying is strong from inside Europe and from abroad. But we have to be an organized and determined lobby group as well.

Europeans have to understand the question of identity. An immigrant never becomes French or English or German if he arrives there older than 18-20 and spends there 30-40 years or if he becomes a citizen. If only one of the parents is european, the child will be half European. In the USA, 99% of the population has a second identity after or before being American.
In France there are no minorities, officially. An immigrant is officially named French if he has the passport, there are hundreds of thousands of children who are born in France and Germany and don’t speak the language of the host state and don’t meet with the host nationality except in school.

Finally, religion is part of the identity; this is something leftists don’t want to hear or to understand. Another religion means different habits, different holidays, different language of prayer, different role of the Clergy and different meaning of life. 

Europe must wake up finally, put Political Correctness aside and realize that Christianity is its religion.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Christianity in Decline? (part 2)

In this article I want to talk about the role and situation of Christianity in Europe and North America. I was inspired by Hungarian journalist Gergely Szilvay’s articles and the 5 year report on Christianophobia in Europe, published by OIDCE (Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe).

“485 cemeteries or places of worship were damaged between January 1st and September 30th, 2010. 410 were Christian sites, 40 Muslim sites and 35 Jewish sites.” former French minister Brice Hortefeux, November 2010.

This means that the majority’s symbols are the target of anti-religious or more exactly anti-christian attacks. This is strange for those who know that Catholicism has been the official religion of France for over 1200 years and more than half of the French are still Catholic, but we have to know that in France and in most of Europe, practicing Catholics became a minority.

But we may wonder how can the silent majority be discriminated or perhaps persecuted in extreme cases? Unfortunately the phenomenon exists, just think about women who have always been more in number than men and they are discriminated until today in workplaces, even in Western Europe and North America, blacks have always been a majority in South Africa and they were discriminated for decades under the Apartheid rule.

Anti-clerical movements have always existed in Europe and have strong traditions in many societies, but the events of May 1968 were the milestone of the current situation. In May 1968 thousands of students protested against Charles de Gaulle's government and against the whole society's status quo for a "better world". They rioted in the streets, blocked the entries to universities, their leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit pissed on the wall of the Sorbonne, they also burnt the entrance of the Paris Stock Exchange.

This better world meant more freedoms in education, healthcare (legalization of abortion and euthanasia), further steps in separation of State and Church, more freedom in everyday life (behavior between children and parents, teachers and students), sexuality (pre-marital sex), society and public issues (no compulsory military service, no death penalty), less inequalities, protection of minorities, protection of fauna and flora and "World Peace".

The separation of State and Church is becoming recently separation of Church and Society, the word Church is more understood as “Clergy”. And the new waves of youth politics, the “Pirates” are also harsh supporters of further separation of State and Church.

It is interesting that, as a continent, Europe is the first Christian continent then come the Americas, but since the 1960s the role of Christian religion, Christian churches is weakening and not only because of being old-fashioned but also because of verbal and physical attacks against them. We are living the age of the “dictatorship” of Political Correctness. How could that be?

There are lots of methods related to this issue. Please see below many examples:

-EU officials proposed to delete the Christian holidays from Christian calendars.

-Extreme-left anarchist group called for burning of churches in Germany, they were later acquitted

-Protesters against a blasphemous theatre were arrested by police in France

-Local council organizes an exhibition in which Christian personalities are sodomized

-Event related to Christian religion is mocked on TV

-Masses disrupted by sexual minority activists

-Religious (incl. Christian) symbols banned in schools because of immigrants

-Religious sites hacked

-LGBT march mocking Christians

-Ban of wearing crosses at workplace and subsequent firing of Christian workers

-Public personalities or even Members of Parliament threatened with death for backing traditional marriage

-Silence over discrimination of Christians in Europe and other parts of the world

-Forcing politically correct measures on religious schools

After checking many of the 620 cases collected, it seemed for me after a while that the process/phenomenon is systematic and somebody is behind it. Well, according to OIDCE there are 3 groups behind the acts: radical LGBT organizations, radical feminists and radical secularists. And from a scientific point of view, the OIDCE 2011 report makes the following subdivisions in the discriminatory cases:

I- Discriminative cases

-Freedom of religion (19)

-Freedom of Speech (12)

-Freedom of Conscience (12)

-Anti-Christian acts inspired by the discriminatory laws based on equality (10)

II- Intolerance

-Forcing out of public life (14)

-Acts against religious symbols (19)

-Defamation (18)

III- Acts inspired by hate

A parliamentary report indicated in the UK that the state is failing to protect Christians’ rights whether it is about majority’s rights at work or other issue and lots of specialists concluded the Christians are not making their voice heard. BBC general-director Mark Thompson has claimed Christianity is treated with far less sensitivity than other religions because it is pretty broad shouldered.

The real problem is the passivity of Christians in public life and the smaller self-confidence in talking about Christian faith and identity partly because of fear of attacks and partly because of the successful negative campaign against the Church (pedophilia, Vatican’s dark issues, rape of minors in religious schools etc.) and against people and institutions related to traditions and old aristocratic/national/Christian elites.

Mainstream media and contemporary arts attack these the most. The "traditional" churches (Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist) are weakened and new religions are expanding in the societies (neo-protestants, born again christians, islam, buddhism) which is a concern as religion is a part of the personal and national identity and most people are not aware of this.

We can see that the generation of May 1968 succeeded in their imagination, a lot of these claims were applied but the effects, combined with other factors, are catastrophic:

Europe has the most ageing (Germany, Switzerland) and the lowest fertility rates (Czech Republic, Bulgaria) populations in the world. Tens of millions of abortions were executed, number of population is diminishing even with immigration, more and more children are born without marriage of their parents (Hungary, France), and most of the marriages end with divorce (63% in Sweden).

A hedonistic society based on consumption is in place in most urban areas in Europe and a very large proportion of households and individuals are suffering from debts, consumption has been higher than revenues for a long time, governments didn’t prevent the economic crisis we are experiencing now.

Our mission as young Christian-democrats is to make our voice heard in major topics that are related to people’s everyday life. We have to communicate the advantages of traditions, traditional family, society, family businesses etc.

The people have to know the importance of religion and historic Clergy, even those who are not practicing Christians have the right to know what religion really means.

Freedoms in our understanding do not mean political correctness.

States in the West are failing to protect Christians’ rights because they are under the pressure of tiny but well-organized secularist and minority groups and it is our task to make the voice of the silent, “invisible” majority heard.

“Do the good and talk about it”, we have to show example for the society and form lobby groups in favor of those “afraid” to express their point of view.

It will be a long battle but it will be worth it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Christianity in Decline? (part 1)

In December 2010, a wave of street protests was started in the Arab World by young people who protested against dictatorships, corruption and unemployment. They succeeded to overthrow dictators who ruled their countries for decades, people became freer than before, exiled
leaders came back and had the opportunity to participle in elections. But, the artificial conflicts created by older regimes within the people remained and will remain for a while.

An example: On the 9th of October last year, hundreds of Coptic Christians went to the streets to protest against the destruction of a church in southern Egypt. The Church of the Marinab had all its permits from local councils since the 1930s and authorities started demolition saying permits are not valid. There are 53 other churches that are closed by the authorities and citizens (Christians) can not use them, Christian minority saw this as an attack on its identity and as a sign of lack of freedom just like pre-revolutionary era.
A march was organized from Shubra to the State TV headquarters in Masbero, the army used military vehicles to stop the march and went through civilians killing 29 people and injuring 232, in a few hours only. Official communication was that protesters had machine guns and killed 3 soldiers. There were no arrests within the military corps following the murders but there were among the organizers of the march.
This case showed the brutality of the military body ruling the country after dictatorship and its hostility towards the Christian minority, at the same time, public media stated the Copts were the
only ones responsible for the events. There were many left-wing and moderate Muslim parties and associations who condemned the events as mass murder, but there was no stronger pressure to judge the real responsible of the killings.

This is one of the bloodiest repressions against Christians in decades, there were many other crimes committed against the Coptic minority (Kosheh 2000, Nag Hammadi 2010, Imbaba 2011)
but only in a few cases were perpetrators brought to justice, in Kosheh where 21 (the youngest martyr was 11 years old) people were killed, 93 were arrested and after 11 months they were all released, except 1 who killed a Muslim by mistake, he got 13 years to spend in jail. Just to make you understand the scale of the riots, 4500 shops and houses were looted in 48 hours, the police was withdrawn from the city during that period and a very high percentage of the victims were Christian. It is alleged that many of the criminals are serving nowadays in the armed forces
of Sohag Governorate.

The attack of a monastery, the abduction of a Christian girl and forcibly marrying her to a Muslim, burning a church or a Christian's house or shop, riots by local mobs against Christians' shops and cars are weekly issues in Egyptian media and sources of conflicts between radical Islamists and Christians. This trend is made up of islamisation and radicalisation of Islam among several social levels, the resistance of Christians to appearences of islamisation and the involvement of the regime to strengthen inter-confessionnal strifes.

Why I am writing and mentioning all this is that a Christian civilization of the Middle East is in danger. A Church which was founded by St Mark the Apostle, which is 1950 years old, has 12 million members worldwide, 2500 churches and monasteries, is in danger, especially now as Islamists gained absolute majority in the General Assembly on the elections of 2011-2012 (extremist Islamists of Al-Nur gained more than a quarter of all votes).

Many times I wonder how can I/we help as Christians? what can we do to make people all over the world know about this danger? How can a massive Christian exodus be prevented? What should the effective reaction be when we hear a church is burned down? What ideas should be proposed/used to help them? Against who/where shall we protest to stop the bloodshed?
We have to think about these questions and act.

And the above mentioned cases are related to current situations in Egypt, what about Iraq?
more than half of Iraqi Christians fled their homes, fearing killings and abductions, 500 to 1000 of the most ancient churches were burnt down and US troops did nothing to prevent these.
What could happen in Syria in case Assad regime ended? Nearly all of the "freedom-fighters" are radical Sunni Islamists from Syria and the Arab peninsula.
What about Turkey? The government is always refusing to recognize the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkish soldiers, recent Christian converts are harassed, many spend years in prison for false charges.
What about Iran? we don't know if Youssef Nadarkhani (converted form Islam to Christianity) is still alive, he was transferred to a state prison and condemned to death penalty by hanging.
What about Saudi Arabia? having a Holy Bible or a definitely Christian book is considered a crime.
What about Pakistan? Asia Bibi, accused of Blasphemy for refusing to convert to Islam, is still in
prison after 2 years now.

Since the start of the Civil War in Lebanon which Christians lost, Christianity in the Middle East
is in decline. The roots of our religion, the existence of the history's first Christian nations is in danger, the actual situation is not unique, they were threatened before the Crusades and during Ottoman Islamic rule, but it survived and I hope it will survive the decades/centuries that are coming. But, our task is to keep the attention of our surrounding on them and help them in staying in their homeland in peace and dignity.

50000 Syrian Christians were made homeless by al Faruq Brigade in the last 4 weeks in the city of Homs, they are going to spend Easter in fear. So it’s time to get to action!

Happy Easter for all of you!
God Bless,

Joseph Y.F. Potter