New Group is ‘Much More Dangerous’ Than ISIS

A terrorist group you’ve probably never heard of may be the greatest threat America faces.

A new report on threats to America has been issued by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War. It claims that Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, is “much more dangerous to the U.S. than the ISIS model in the long run.” Why?

ISIS is alienating Muslims worldwide with its horrific executions, rapes, and forced allegiance to its ideology. Al-Nusra is following a more gradual strategy. It provides services to Syrians, builds strong relationships with local communities, and focuses primarily on fighting the al-Assad government.

According to Middle East expert Fred Kagan, the group is “quietly intertwining itself with the Syrian population and Syrian opposition. . . . They are waiting in the wings to pick up the mantle of global jihad once ISIS falls.”

As a result, defeating ISIS will not defeat Islamist terrorism. A recent report listed eighty-three different Islamist groups it classified as “terrorist organizations.” We are waging a generational conflict with a movement passionately committed to global conquest. (For more, please read my white paper, Is Islam a Religion of Violence or Peace?)

To defeat your adversary, you must be more committed to victory than your opponent. This principle is true in politics, athletics, and business, as well as in war.

The same is true spiritually. Early Christianity spread quickly because early Christians were passionately committed to the cause of Christ. Jesus was clear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The first believers were willing to live—and die—for Jesus. And millions were drawn to the Lord they loved and served so passionately.

Now Jesus is calling us to follow him as sacrificially as those who first called him Lord. God is grieved when Muslims die for a lie while Christians sit on the sidelines of this spiritual battle.

Take a moment right now to surrender your day to Jesus. Choose to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). Put him in charge of your plans, opportunities, and challenges. Tell him you will do whatever it takes, whatever he asks, whatever the cost. Decide you will live for the Savior who died for you.

ISIS and other terrorist groups will pay any price to spread their message of hate. What price will you pay to spread Jesus’ message of love?

Read Original Article Here

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Open Doors’ annual list of countries where Christians face the worst persecution:

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Each year, Open Doors releases a list of the top 50 countries where Christians are facing the worst persecution because of their faith. The Open Doors World Watch List (WWL) is the only annual survey of religious liberty conditions of Christians around the world, and measures freedom in five key areas of life: private, family, community, national and church life, plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence.

PERSECUTION RISES WORLDWIDE IN A LAWLESS YEAR 

The most oppressive regime in contemporary times, North Korea, tops this year’s Open Doors World Watch List for the 14th consecutive year. Eritrea and Pakistan rise to their highest levels, to #3 and #6 respectively, and lawless Libya also enters the top 10 for the first time ever. Islamic extremism constitutes the main persecuting force in thirty five of the top fifty countries, with Religious nationalism and Dictatorial paranoia also rising sharply. The degree of persecution of Christians was confirmed to be rising, with Open Doors’ researchers recording an average persecution increase of 2.6 points in this year’s Top 50 compared to last year.

The Open Doors World Watch List is published every January and lists the 50 countries worldwide where Christians experience the most persecution. Persecution is understood as any hostility experienced as a result of one’s identification with Christ. This can include hostile attitudes, words and actions towards Christians. Research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF).

In the reporting period (1 November 2014 – 31 October 2015) the Top Ten countries where Christians find it hardest to practice their faith are: North Korea (92 pts), Iraq (90 pts), Eritrea (89 pts), Afghanistan (88 pts), Syria (87 pts), Pakistan (87 pts), Somalia (87 pts), Sudan (84 pts), Iran (83 pts) and Libya (79 pts).

Eritrea and Pakistan – Two major risers in the Top Ten

Dubbed the “North Korea of Africa”, Eritrea ranks among the very worst countries in terms of freedom of religion, freedom of press, rule of law and other human rights records. Driving the persecution of Christians is first and foremost president Afewerki’s Dictatorial paranoia. Any Christian who dares to speak up in Eritrea and protest the treatment of Christians is jailed or arrested no matter what their status. The former Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Abune Antonius, has been under house arrest since 2007 for speaking out. According to a UNHCR report from November 2014, 22 per cent of all refugees reaching Italy by boat are Eritrean. “Eritrean Christians, even though they know that there is a very high probability of falling into the hands of traffickers and ruthless radical groups like the IS, are still desperate to escape from Eritrea”, one researcher confirmed.

The world’s second largest Muslim country, Pakistan has risen to #6 and is the only country getting the maximum score in the violence category in the World Watch List together with Nigeria. The level of pressure is high in all spheres of life and persecution does not come from the State as much as from radical Islamic groups. The reporting period started with the killing of a Christian couple, working in a brick kiln on 4 November 2014 by a furious mob and climaxed in a twin bomb attack on two churches in Lahore on 15 March 2015, leaving 25 dead and wounding dozens. This overt violence conceals the everyday abuse of Christian girls who are frequently abducted, raped, forced to marry and convert, and the country’s 3.8 million Christians feel increasingly under threat in their daily lives.

Newcomers in the Top 50 – Niger and Bahrain

The entry score for the Top 50 has risen by almost 5 points, which sends out a very worrying signal and shows that the World Watch List is really just a record of the tip of an iceberg. The WWL 2016 contains only two newcomers: Niger and Bahrain enter at #49 and #48 respectively. For Niger, the spread of Boko Haram into its territory has caused violence against and fear among Christians to rise sharply. In Bahrain, the sultan’s gradual introduction of Sharia law has already begun to seriously restrict the public witness of Christian faith in the country.

These two new entries have ousted Sri Lanka and Mauritania from the Top 50, which were outflanked this year by rises in persecution in other countries. Despite leaving the official listing, the situation for these countries has not improved. In Sri Lanka churches are still being attacked by local Buddhist communities, despite fresh hopes of protection for religious minorities being placed in the recently elected new government. Mauritania is one of only four official “Islamic Republics” in the world, and the influence of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mauritania is growing. The monitoring of all Christian activity has continued but happily violence has been very low in the reporting period.

The Smash and Squeeze

The Open Doors World Watch List is unique not only as the instrument that measures the persecution of Christians annually, buts its methodology is designed to track how the exercise of the Christian faith gets squeezed in five distinct areas – private life, family life, community life, national life and church life, as well as covering violence such as rapes, killings and church burnings. Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Director of Research at Open Doors International, explains why: “It is possible for persecution to be so intense in all areas of life that Christians fear to witness at all, and so you may find very low levels of violence as a result since incidents of persecution often result from acts of witness.”

The countries that show where this squeeze was most intensive were: Somalia, North Korea, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Maldives, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria. The highest levels of violence directed against Christians (in countries listed in WWL 2016) were in Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Central African Republic, Egypt, Mexico, Sudan and India.

Open Doors records show that worldwide there were well over 7,000 Christians killed for faith-related reasons in the reporting period. That is a rise of almost 3,000 in comparison to conservative figures from the WWL 2015 period. This is excluding North Korea, and partly Syria and Iraq, where accurate records do not exist. Statistics also show that more than 2,400 churches were attacked or damaged, which is over double the number for last year.

In Nigeria news of violence has been dominated by the brutality of the radical Islamic militants, Boko Haram. But as Frans Veerman, the Director of the WWL Unit explains, even without Boko Haram, “that would still leave the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen regularly committing atrocities against indigenous Christian farmers in the Middle Belt states. Out of the more than 4,000 Christians who lost their lives in attacks in Nigeria in the reporting period, 2,500 are attributed to Boko Haram and not less than 1,500 to the Hausa-Fulani herdsmen. At least 30,000 Christians have been displaced through the violence in Taraba State alone. These are the results of fact-finding on the ground but the researchers estimate that

they uncovered only 50% of the atrocities committed. This is looking like ethnic cleansing based on religious affiliation.”

Christians in conflict hotspots – Iraq, Yemen, Kenya

The conflict zones of the world are very often regions where Christians are especially vulnerable. Whilst the world media fixes its attention to the battles and bombings, in the background the Islamic State (IS) is radicalizing populations even in countries where it has no apparent presence. The Kurdish region of north Iraq (which has risen 4 points to #2) is currently acting as a safe haven for thousands of Christian refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. But even there, the government is ordering land to be sold to Muslim families in several predominantly Christian areas and towns. This “demographic reversal process” in many majority Christian areas is forcing Christians to live precariously in a minority situation – or leave. In Yemen (#11), which missed entering the Top 10 by just one point, Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war. Virtually all Western expatriates have fled the civil war, leaving just a few thousand brave Muslim Background Believers in the country. The Church is holding on by the skin of its teeth.

Another region with an increasingly radicalized Muslim population are the northern and coastal areas of Kenya, which has risen 5 points to #16. Attacks from al-Shabaab adherents killed 28 Christians on a bus from Mandera on 22 November 2014. 36 Christian quarry workers were killed on 2 December 2014, again in Mandera; 147 Christian university students in Garissa were killed on 2 April 2015, and 14 Christian quarry workers were killed in Mandera on 7 July 2015. Most of these were “execution-style” killings and Christians were targeted specifically by separating them from Muslims. It is to be feared that the situation for Christians will continue to deteriorate, especially as pressure in all spheres of life is high.

Central Asia – Rising persecution through surveillance of terror networks

Christians living in Central Asian states have seen a sharp deterioration in their religious freedom, especially as these governments increase their surveillance and control on all groups in society, often cynically citing a need to crack down on Islamist inspired terror. Uzbekistan is a perennial occupant of the top 20 (at #15) with Turkmenistan joining it at #19, and Tajikistan (at #31 moving up from #45) and Azerbaijan (at #34 from #46) constituting some of this year’s significant risers.

The goal – Supporting the people behind the figures

The Open Doors World Watch List is published annually as a tool 1) for media to raise awareness 2) for politicians to make informed decisions and 3) for churches around the world to support and pray for their brothers and sisters on the frontline. World maps displaying the spread of persecution against Christians and further detailed information on the situation in specific countries are available from all Open Doors offices.

For 60 years, Open Doors has worked to strengthen Christians in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries. The WWL has also been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom to help make the information gathering and calculation process more transparent.

Access the World Watch Map Here

Please consider giving to this wonderful organization in order to help those that are persecuted. You can do so by clicking here.

You can also sign up for the new letter by clicking here.

Benjamin Netanyahu: ‘Christians … are Suffering a lot because of Radical Islam’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel is the only Middle East country helping Christians from the violence of radical Islam.
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Netanyahu, speaking in a video message to the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum, said that Christians are being persecuted and killed by radicals in the Middle East.
“You know very well that our region is in flames and Christians in Iraq, Syria and, unfortunately, under the Palestinian Authority, are suffering a lot because of radical Islam. These communities are persecuted, and unfortunately many people have lost their lives for their faith,” Netanyahu said.
“Radical Islam does not make any difference between Christians, Jews and Muslims who reject their extremism. They are all infidels who must be killed. For this now more than ever it is clear which is the only State in the Middle East that protects minorities, where Christians live in peace and where their community is growing: This state is the State of Israel,” he said.
Netanyahu has put a blockade on the region, which restricts the flow of goods.
Meanwhile, the Christian community in Gaza has fallen at a rate of 5 percent per year.
“People might think we’re leaving because of Hamas, but no it’s because of … [Israeli] policies on Gaza,” said Jaber Jilder, an official with the Greek Orthodox Church.

Why Are There Only 53 Christians Among America’s 2,184 Syrian Refugees? Amid claims of discrimination, World Relief points to other explanations.

Since civil war erupted in 2011, half of Syria’s nearly 22 million people have been displaced—including many of its Christians.

Before the conflict, approximately 1.1 million Syrians, or 5.2 percent of the population, were Christians. The majority—at least 700,000—have now fled.

That means that roughly 18 percent of Syria’s estimated 4 million refugees are Christians. So why have only less than 3 percent of the 2,184 Syrian refugees resettled in the United States from 2011 until now been Christians?

As Christians debate state bans on Syrian refugees after the Paris attacks, American Christians are “curious, and somewhat concerned, that there appear to be no Christian refugees in sight,” wrote Faith McDonnell of the Institute on Religion and Democracy for The Stream. She faults the Obama administration and US resettlement agencies which plan to increase the number of refugees resettled but have failed to support legislation that would fast track Christians for resettlement in America.

Christian refugees need special treatment, argues Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, because the United Nations refugee processing system “disproportionately excludes them.” According to Shea, it’s difficult for Christians to pass through the bureaucratic channels necessary to obtain refugee status, and they face dangers along the way.

No one is disputing the fact that the US has resettled 2,098 Muslims and 53 Christians from Syria since 2011, according to the latest statistics from the Refugee Processing Center.

However, the situation may not be as discriminatory as the numbers seem, said Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for World Relief. The humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), World Relief is one of nine agencies authorized to resettle refugees in the US, and has resettled more than 250,000 over the past 35 years.

A typical security check for refugees takes 18 months—but it’s often longer for Middle Eastern refugees, he said. For example, the overwhelming majority of Iraqi refugees didn’t start arriving in the States until about five years after the beginning of the conflict in Iraq. So the bulk of Syrian Christian refugees are likely still waiting to be processed, he said.

“For a refugee, from the time they flee to until they’re in a permanent situation is 17 years,” said Soerens. “So five years is actually on the really short end. There are some refugees who might wait 30 years.”

And many Syrian Christians didn’t begin the resettlement process immediately after the civil war sparked in March 2011, he said. Instead, many Christians stayed longer in Syria because they felt protected by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Other Christians fled to neighboring Lebanon. Now home to more than one million refugeesmore than one-third of its population—Lebanon has taken the longest to resettle displaced people, says Soerens.

Socioeconomic status also plays a part.

“Christians tended to be better off economically than the average Muslim in Syria,” said Soerens. For the wealthier refugees, applying for a tourist visa is a quicker avenue of escape. Once they arrive as tourists, they can petition the US government for asylum.

Since the start of the war, the number of Syrian asylum petitions has steadily risen. In 2010, 36 petitions were filed. Last year, petitions totaled 1,586.

Since 2011, the US has approved just over one-third (37%) of the cases filed. Christians are likely overrepresented in these figures, said Soerens.

He rejected accusations that the US was trying to discriminate against Syrian Christians.

“I’m wary to assume a discriminatory factor here, given the reputation of the US resettlement program,” said Soerens. “It has helped more persecuted Christians than any other religious group.”

Since 2003, the US has resettled more than 762,000 refugees, and nearly 340,000 of them have been Christians, according to State Department statistics. The percentage of Christian refugees from each country varies greatly, depending on the circumstances.

For example, consider the countries that top Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian. Of the nearly 9,000 Afghani refugees resettled in the US in the past 12 years, just over 1 percent are Christians. But of the almost 15,000 refugees from Eritrea, 85 percent are Christians. By comparison, about 3 percent of Somali refugees, 30 percent of Iraqi refugees, 63 percent of North Korean refugees, and 75 percent of Nigerian refugees have been Christians.

“We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” President Barack Obama told Turkish reporters this week.

That might change, as several bills have popped up in the US House of Representatives this year, aimed both at expediting the process for religious groups threatened by ISIS and at beefing up the screening of anyone from Iraq or Syria. Some voices, including Franklin Graham, have even called for ending Muslim immigration to America.

“Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS,” said Leith Anderson, president of the NAE. “Our system is designed to keep terrorists out and to help desperate families with little children. We want to help the victims of terrorism in the Middle East, not punish them.”

Russell Moore argues in The Washington Post that it is time to “stop pitting security and compassion against each other.” The Gospel Coalition offers an explainer on the Syrian refugee crisis. CT previously spotlighted how refugees and asylum seekers are today’s pilgrims.

On Thursday, a veto-proof majority in the House voted in favor of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act. Nearly 50 Democrats joined with Republicans to approve legislation that forbids Syrian and Iraqi refugees from being resettled until the director of the FBI, the director of Homeland Security, and the director of national intelligence confirm that each applicant poses no threat, reportsThe New York Times.

But the bill would only duplicate security systems in place and “effectively end the program,” said World Relief’s CEO Stephan Bauman. “Refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country.”

Here is World Relief’s full response to the SAFE Act passed on Thursday:

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would create an extra layer of certification in order for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to come to the United States as refugees in addition to additional reporting requirements.

World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, is strongly against this legislation and urges the United States to continue to welcome and protect Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

For 30 years, World Relief has partnered with local churches to resettle over 260,000 refugees to the United States and in addition since 1975, the United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees – three quarters of a million entered the U.S. in 2001 alone. During this time, there have been no recorded terrorists acts in the U.S. by a refugee. In fact, refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country.

“The refugee resettlement program is a life-saving program that has helped millions of those who have fled persecution start their lives anew in a place of safety. At a time when the U.S. needs to show humanitarian leadership, it would be a mistake to effectively shut down a program that has saved millions of lives,” said Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. “It is vital to maintain the integrity of this program by accepting the most vulnerable refugees, not excluding anyone based on their nationality or religion.”

World Relief strongly opposed H.R. 4038- The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act 2015 due to the following reasons:

H.R. 4038 creates a bureaucratic review process that could take years to implement and would effectively shut down refugee resettlement. The bill requires the approval of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Department of National Intelligence for each individual refugee. The certification process will have to be created and agreed upon by heads of each agency and could take years to establish. In the meantime, refugees would languish in camps and dangerous situations, Syrian Americans would not be able to reunite with their family members, and there would be very real ramifications for international refugee protection and U.S. foreign policy interests in the region.

The process, once established, would add months or years to the security screening process, which is already the lengthiest and most robust in the world, routinely taking between 18 and 36 months. In addition to obtaining approval from three heads of federal agencies for each refugee, the bill requires reporting to thirteen congressional committees on each refugee that is considered for resettlement. This is unreasonably burdensome and will effectively end the program. Furthermore, for reasons of security and safety, security and medical clearances are only valid for limited periods of time. During the certification process, these clearances will expire. This will mean that refugees will be caught in an un-ending loop of security clearances that will never end.

Refugees are already the most vetted non-citizens in our country. All refugees undergo thorough and rigorous security screenings prior to arriving in the United States, including but not limited to multiple biographic and identity investigations; FBI biometric checks of applicants’ fingerprints and photographs; in-depth, in-person interviews by well-trained Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings; investigations by the National Counterterrorism Center; and other checks by U.S. domestic and international intelligence agencies. Supervisory review of all decisions; random case assignment; inter-agency national security teams; trained document experts; forensic testing of documents; and interpreter monitoring are in place to maintain the security of the refugee resettlement program. Due to technological advances, Syrian refugees are also undergoing iris scans to confirm their identity through the process.

The bill is a waste of resources. Funds used to establish and run this certification process would be better used in conducting actual security reviews of refugees and others who are vetted by these agencies.

The bill is a pretext and requires differential treatment of refugees from Syria and Iraq without providing a justification for the additional verification. It is a disguised attempt to stop refugees from two countries long beset by internal conflict, including refugees who have been in neither Syria nor Iraq for four years. Differential treatment, with no clear justification, amounts to discrimination on the basis of nationality without rational basis.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t carefully vet refugees, but let’s get the facts first before making generalizations and shutting down a program that has literally saved thousands of lives.To turn our backs on refugees now would betray our nation’s core values to provide refuge for the persecuted and affirm the very message those who perpetrate terrorism would seek to send.

Now is the time to act. www.wewelcomerefugees.com

Stephan Bauman

President/CEO – World Relief

Read Original Article Here

U.S. and U.K. Governments Discriminate against Christian Refugees

By: Amanda Casanova | Religion Today Contributing Writer
Recently released statistics show that Christian refugees are being “unintentionally discriminated against” by the U.S. government’s refugee program.
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According to Christian Today, the statistics show that only 2 percent of Syrian refugees allowed in the US since 2011 are Christian. More than 96 percent are Muslim, the US state department statistics show.
The nation’s refugee program relies on the United Nations refugee camps to decide who to accept into the United States, but Syrian and Iraqi Christian supporters say that Christians fleeing the violence avoid the camps because they feel they could be targeted there.
“Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them,” said Lord Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury. “They are seeking refuge in private homes, church buildings and with neighbors and family.”
Since the fighting started in Syria in 2011, more than 2,200 Muslims have been accepted into the U.S. Only 53 Christians from Syria were accepted.
The U.S. refugee program is under fire after the attacks in Paris, in which it is speculated that the attackers may have entered Europe disguised as refugees.
In response, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has asked that there be a focus on admitting Christian refugees.
President Obama, however, said discriminating against Muslims is “not American.”

Open Doors World Watch List 2015

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The World Watch List ranks countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. The list is compiled from a specially-designed questionnaire of 50 questions covering various aspects of religious freedom. A point value is assigned depending on how each question is answered. The total number of points per country determines its position on the World Watch List of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians. The World Watch List lists the 50 countries where faith costs the most. The list is based on detailed information from Open Doors co-workers in over 65 countries, as well as independant experts. Worldwide, the List reports an overall increase in the persecution of Christians in 2014. 

The Open Doors’ WWL 2015 tracks a marked increase in persecution for Christian communities in a large number of African states. Sudan, Eritrea and Nigeria make their appearance in the Top 10. Kenya and Djibouti have marked the steepest climb on the list, and Tanzania and Eritrea also scored significantly higher compared to 2014.

While Africa saw the most rapid growth of persecution, the Middle East saw targeted attacks, resulting in a mass exodus of Christians. In forty countries of the Top 50, Islamic extremism was a major source of persecution. It would be fair to say that the WWL 2015 again shows that the persecution of Christians seems to become more intense in more countries of the world. Approximately 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, making them one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While persecution can take many forms, Christians throughout the world risk imprisonment, torture, rape and even death as result of their faith.

World Watch List 2015 – Top 10 Countries – Including Summaries