Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, October 16, 2017 — “There is something greater here.” — Real freedom come from obedience to the will of God through faith.

October 15, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 467

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Art: King Solomon – The Wisest Man Who Ever Lived

Reading 1 ROM 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,
called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God,
which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
the Gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,
but established as Son of God in power
according to the Spirit of holiness
through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1BCDE, 2-3AB, 3CD-4

R. (2a) The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

Alleluia PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”

.
*********************************************
.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
16 OCTOBER, 2017, Monday, 28th Week, Ordinary Time
MAKING GOOD USE OF OUR PRIVILEGES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 1:1-7Ps 98:1-4Lk 11:29-32 ]

What is tragic in life is that many of us do not appreciate the privileges that God has blessed us with.  We take them for granted, and because of the lack of gratitude, we do not make use of them wisely for our growth and for the good of others.  Many of us have been gifted with a good life, a nice house, a car and money for education; and on the personal level, good health, beauty, intelligence, and good connections.  Alas, instead of using them well and developing ourselves with the gifts we have, we squander them away.  Indeed, we are reminded of the words of Jesus when He warned us, “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.”  (Mt 7:6)

This is particularly true with respect to our faith.   Most of us do not have to pay a price for our faith because it was passed on to us.  We do not have to make sacrifices to find our faith, unlike the early Christians who had to even pay with their life to find faith in Christ.  St Paul reminded the Romans of their great privilege to be called by God to belong to Him.  “You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ.  To you all, men, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.”  How great it is to be part of God’s family and to be God’s beloved!  Christ, at His baptism, was also called as God’s beloved.  So to be known as God’s beloved means that we are special in God’s eyes and His love is with us.   By being baptized, we are given the inheritance to enjoy the love of God.  What a wonderful gift and assurance indeed.  This is what St Paul wrote, “may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.”  It is truly grace to be forgiven and chosen in Christ and to be at peace with God.

But not only were the Romans called to be God’s beloved, they were also called to be saints.  They were set apart to be God’s people and dedicated for His service.  We are given a mission to be the ambassadors of Christ.  Like St Paul, we are called to be “a servant of Christ Jesus” and “an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.”  Such is the calling of a Christian.  He is adopted into God’s family, given a new identity as His beloved and sent on a mission to bring the Good News of God’s love to all.  “Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name.”

But unfortunately, many of us do not treasure the privilege of being called by the Lord.  We take the grace of baptism lightly.  We do not value our identity in Christ as His adopted brother and sister.  We do not live as a member of the household of God.  Instead we live as estranged children, not in communion with the Lord or with members of the Catholic community.  We do not have any Catholic friends to share our faith with, not even members of our own family!  Although we call ourselves members of God’s family, we live in an individualistic manner, as if our relationship with God is just between Him and me.

Most of all, we do not make any effort to deepen our understanding of Christ and of the gospel.  We lack knowledge of our faith.  Although we claim that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we do not come to Him, read the bible and pray to Him daily.  Instead of taking directions from our Lord, especially using Him as our moral compass, we take directions from the world on what is right or wrong, good or bad.  Our faith in Christ is just a ritualistic faith, paying lip service to Him but in truth, God is far away from our hearts and Christ is not the center of our lives.  Although baptized in Christ, we are still pagans at heart.

When we act in this manner, then the judgement that the Lord said of the Jews would also apply to us as well.Jesus reprimanded them saying, “On judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.  On judgement day, the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” To think that even the warlike and decadent Ninevites repented when Jonah preached to them, and reluctantly at that!  How much more then should the Jews repent because Christ, the Word of God in person, was preaching to them!  And to think that Queen Sheba would travel great distances just to hear King Solomon’s wisdom although he was full of moral imperfections, how much more should the Jews appreciate Christ who is the Wisdom of God in person before them.  Indeed, their rejection of Christ was their loss and they had made themselves more liable to punishment than the pagan nations, such as the Ninevites or the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, who did not have the privilege of meeting Christ, unlike the people from Judea and Galilee.

Indeed, we too have been given the privilege of coming to know the Lord.  We have the grace to freely study and practice our faith.  In many countries, the people have no freedom of religion, not even the freedom of worship.  And even if they are allowed, they are discriminated and ostracized, or the authorities would make things difficult for them to practise their faith.  In some places, one might get killed for professing his or her faith because of fanaticism or persecution.  Besides that, we have enough opportunities to receive the sacraments daily, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation.  We have daily masses all over the country, celebrated morning, noon and evening.  There is a church within 10 minutes’ drive from our homes.  We can attend instructions on the faith, ongoing formation, retreats as and when we are ready.  Besides that, we have social and digital media broadcast and scripture reflections every day in our archdiocesan website.  There are more than sufficient materials to learn about our faith from the internet, even if we have no time to go for courses conducted in our churches.

Alas, such facilities and resources are taken for granted. They are not used or accessed.  Many take our daily masses for granted.  Many do not go for the sacrament of reconciliation when they are easily available.  We have the privilege of 2000 years of history and tradition, spiritualties, theology and doctrinal advancement. Unlike the early Christians, we have the advantage of having eye-witnesses of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.  We have the benefit of years of doctrinal discussion, clarification and development in the understanding of our faith and doctrine.  We should therefore count ourselves fortunate!

Thus, Jesus’ reprimand to the people should apply to us as well.  “This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.  The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”   Indeed, Christ has been shown to us to be “the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took, was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ who, in the order of the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead.”   Christ is truly man and truly God.  He is truly our messiah because He came from the House of David.  He is truly God because of the Spirit in Him at work in His ministry and especially in His resurrection.  Without doubt, we can confidently surrender in faith to Him as St Paul urges us to give “the obedience of faith.”

So as Christians, like St Paul, we have received this great privilege of faith in Christ.  It entails an equal responsibility “to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name.”  Having received this privilege without merit on our own but purely through grace, let us witness to His Good News by living out our identity as God’s children in our lives.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh
.
*****************************************
.

Commentary on Luke 11:29-32 From Living Space

Today’s readings are about doing penance for our sins and they are linked by the name of Jonah.

In Mark’s gospel the crowds are often shown as recognising God’s presence in Jesus better than the Scribes and Pharisees do. In Luke, however, they are sometimes shown as people curious to see signs and wonders but without any real commitment to following Jesus.

So today we are told that “the crowds got even bigger” and Jesus spoke to them. But what he said was not very flattering. “This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.” The only sign they will get will be the sign of Jonah. Jesus, like Jonah, is a call to repentance and radical conversion. And Jesus implies that many of his listeners are not ready or willing to hear that call. They don’t need any signs; Jesus has been giving them an abundance of signs through his teaching and healing work.

On the judgment day, they, the chosen people of God, will be surprised to see the Queen of the South rise up because she, pagan that she was, came a long distance to listen to the wisdom of Solomon – and Jesus is someone far superior to Solomon. They will be surprised to see the people of Niniveh, pagans that they were, rise up because they repented at the preaching of Jonah – and Jesus is far greater than Jonah.

We too, who claim to be God’s People, may be surprised to see who will be called to God’s side on judgment day because they heard and followed God’s word according to their capacity. The question is: where will we be on that day? Thomas A Kempis, the writer of a famous medieval treatise, called The Imitation of Christ, asked that very same question. He was worried about whether he would persevere in serving Christ to the very end of his life. He said he was told in answer to his prayer: “Do now what you would like to have done then, and you will have nothing to worry about.”

Where will I be on the Day of Judgement? The answer to that question can be decided by me this very day and every single day from now on.

.

****************************************

Related:

.

*************************************

.

From March 8, 2017

.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
TRUE REPENTANCE PRESUPPOSES A HUMBLE AND CONTRITE HEART

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JONAH 3:1-10PS 50:3-4,12-13,18-19LUKE 11:29-32 ]

The message of Lent is a call to repentance as a prerequisite for the new life that Christ is offering us at Easter.  This is the first and essential step to take if we are to avail ourselves of the New life of Christ.  Otherwise, at the end of this Lenten season, there will be no experience of resurrection for us as we remain buried in our grave covered by sins.  But not many are ready to repent, just as many resisted the prophets of old when challenged to repent.  If Jesus was rejected then, should we be surprised that when we invite people to repent, they harden their hearts even more.

Ironically, the most difficult people to invite to repent are the new scribes and Pharisees of our days. These are the priests, religious and pious, active church members.  They live in self-righteousness.  We preach to everyone that they must repent but we ourselves are not repenting of our sins.  It seems the message of repentance is directed at everyone but ourselves.  We are more concerned about others repenting than we ourselves.  Perhaps this is because those of us who are supposedly religious and pious are so exposed to sacred things that we get jaded and lose the sense of the sacred.  It becomes a profession, doing and saying “religious” things perfunctorily without sincerely believing in what we say.  And because of the lack of honest and humble self-examination of conscience, we think we are quite holy anyway and that we have not committed any big sins, unlike the rest of the world. This was the case of the religious leaders in today’s gospel who rejected our Lord.

Then there are the real sinners who desire repentance but do not do anything about it.  They know they are living sinful lives.  They know that their life is not in order.  They know they are hurting themselves and others.  They know the law but they cannot obey the law.  In the depths of their heart they may desire to come back to God.  Alas, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.   They cannot find the impetus or strength to renounce their sins and turn back to God.

Why is it that people are not heeding the call to repentance?  The first reason is pride.  This is the cause of blindness, as in the case of the leaders of Israel.  Their pride was hurt and they were not willing to admit that they too were sinners.  They put up a good show for others to see.  Jesus was a threat to them.  Even with all the miracles and signs that Jesus performed, they could not see that Jesus was the Messiah.  When we are proud, we want to see things our own way.  We would not accept the Word of God.  Our ego often gets in the way of our welcoming the simple message of repentance that is preached.  We see this in the case of the Ninevites.  When they heard the message of the prophet Jonah, they immediately repented.  “They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes.”

The second cause of blindness is selfishness.  When we think only of ourselves, we cannot see the bigger picture.  Many of us are absorbed in our own needs and desires.  In our selfish pursuit of those things that entice and attract us, we do not weigh the cost of procuring those things.  That is why people cheat, steal and rob.  Many eat, smoke and drink excessively, causing hurt to themselves and their loved ones.  Indeed, one who cannot see beyond oneself will only do things for short term gains but long term pain.   Because of ambition and greed we ruin our health and integrity.

Then there is the third reason for blindness.  It is simply ignorance.  Many of us are hurting ourselves and our loved ones without knowing it.  Some parents think that if they have plenty of money, their children will be happy when what they really want is a loving family and the loving presence of their parents.  Some of us are slaves to pleasure and enjoyment, apparently oblivious to the consequences of our actions. We pursue dangerous activities but do we spare a thought for our loved ones who might have to look after us when we suffer a bad accident, and become crippled for life.  Do we really consider if what we do is really and truly good for us and our loved ones?  Do the means bring about the end that we desire, which is a loving and happy united family?

How, then, can we begin the path to repentance?  One way is fear, like the Ninevites.  For fear of the punishment of God, they repented. Well, this is not a bad motive but it is not the highest motive for true repentance.  If we repent out of fear of punishment, then when that possibility is taken away, we fall back into sin.  It is like little children who would only do what we tell them out of fear of punishment.  This way of thinking shows a lack of maturity in our decisions.

The only way to repent is as the responsorial psalm says, “A humbled, contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.”  What is required simply is a humble heart that recognizes the sins committed, the hurts we have done to God, our fellowmen and ourselves.  Only true humility can bring a person to contrition.   When we think of the pain and suffering we have caused to others because of our sins, we will then repent.  When we steal, do we ever think how much we are depriving the person and his loved ones of their needs?  When we are unjust in our actions, do we spare a thought that someone is suffering because we have not been fair?

The most powerful motivating factor for repentance of heart is when we truly love Godour loved ones, our fellowmen and ourselves.  That is why Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Lk 10:27)  True conversion must be motivated by love not by fear.  When we begin to understand how our sins affect others and hurt them, especially when they love us so much, then we will be contrite.  The more we fail in love towards our loved ones, the greater the contrition.  So being conscious of the love of God for us, especially in Christ Jesus’ death on the cross, should cause us to feel sorrow for our sins because our sins hurt the heart of God when He sees us hurting ourselves and His people.  Being conscious of the sufferings and anxieties of our loved ones because of our foolish acts will help us to avoid doing the wrong things.

Consequently, if we are seeking a new life in Christ, we must spend these weeks of Lent contemplating on the love and mercy of God in Christ; and the love of our loved ones so that we can be filled with compunction for our sins.   When we start thinking of all that we have done or failed to do, then we will feel remorse for our negligence or wrong done to them.  We need to withdraw to the desert during this Lenten season and spend time reviewing our relationship with God, with others and even the way we treat ourselves.  Are we doing justice to the life that God has given to us and the talents that He has blessed us with?  By coming to consciousness of our failings, we too can then pray, “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.  In your compassion blot out my offence.”

Truly, the grace of repentance is given to all.  We need not wait for the penitential service to go for confession.  Whenever we are properly prepared and are ready, that is, having a humble and contrite heart, then we should go for the sacrament of reconciliation.  In fact, it is more effective to go for individual confession as you can confess your sins properly and be instructed by the confessor. If penitential service has been proven ineffective as a means of experiencing God’s mercy and effecting a true change of heart, it is because many go for the service without preparation.  They simply went for confession.  They did not hear the Word of God.  They did not spend time reflecting on their life, on all that they had done or failed to do.  So most go for a quick confession without serious and prolonged preparation. Such confession is more like going to a laundry service without any intention to keep the clothes clean for long.

Let us not miss out this grace of repentance.  We should individually make time to go through our life.  We have a few weeks to do so.  Reading the Word of God daily as provided in the mass text, and applying it to our lives will help us to come to a state of awareness and contrition.  Let us not delay but start now.  Give yourself at least half an hour of prayer and reflection every day.  Take note of your sins and your struggles so that when the time comes for confession, you are ready with a contrite heart.   And when you confess sincerely from your heart, you will be washed clean and God’s presence will return to you.  You will experience His joy, His love and, most of all, a new life.   Do not wait or delay longer, otherwise you will be condemned, as Jesus says in the gospel, by the Ninevites and the Queen of the South.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh
.
**********************************************
.
From Peace and Freedom and  “The Anawim Way: Liturgical Meditations”
.
We saw in previous readings that although the Lord invites everyone to the banquet, not everyone accepts his call. Once we do accept the Lord, we enter into the fullness of life which the Lord intends for us. One of the best gift of our life in service to the lord is true freedom, about which Paul reflects today in the first reading: “It was for liberty that Christ freed us.”
.
This freedom is a gift from God and is not a product of our own self-reliance. It does not come from our obedience to the laws of God. Real freedom come from obedience to the will of God through faith.
.
Our freedom is a gift with strings attached: once we accept our freedom we have responsibilities. Once we accept freedom from God we must use it to His greater purpose and not for selfish things. We must use our freedom in the service of others! By free will we shape our lives for the good of God or toward evil things. But is we choose sin; we revoke out freedom and return to the “yoke of sin.”
.
************************************
.
Atheism may be fashionable, but most intelligent people believe in God
.

22 December 2015

Have we ever needed Christianity more than we do today? It’s a rhetorical question, for sure, because the loss of our faith and the inability to confront Islam have never been greater. When I was a little boy during the war, my mother assured me that if I believed in Jesus everything would be OK. This was during the Allied bombing on Tatoi, the military airfield near our country house where the Germans concentrated their anti-aircraft guns. My Fräulein, the Prussian lady who brought me up, was more practical. She handed me a beautiful carved knife that made me feel safer than my prayers ever did.

Today, of course, 74 years later, my prayers are far more likely to give me peace of mind than a knife in my pocket. That’s the difference between being five and 79 years of age. Mind you, now I pray only for the safety and welfare of my children and their mother. My soul I sold to the devil long ago. No prayers will save that loser. At times, during Christmas and Easter, when I go to church, light a candle and sit alone in a pew, all these memories come flooding back, especially my fear of the noisy Anglo-American bombs that rained down around us, and how only the steel in my pocket gave me courage.

Atheists seem to be le goût du jour. Our celebrity culture has no room for faithful people, especially Christians; only Islam enjoys that privilege. In 1966 Time magazine shocked its readers with a cover that asked whether God was dead. I remember it well because Henry Luce died soon after. Was there a hidden message somewhere, I wondered? But Luce was a devout Christian and a great believer in the Almighty, unlike Christopher Hitchens, whose favourite targets were priests, Mother Teresa and God, a Christian God whose followers turned the other cheek. The Hitch had very little to say against Allah because he knew the latter’s followers did not take kindly to cheap remarks against him. Hitchens deplored Christmas, ‘the collectivisation of gaiety’ and ‘compulsory bad taste’, as well he should have, being an opportunist. Atheism gets you in through the front door, Christianity is reserved for the trade entrance. He hated the ‘confessional drool’ that families mailed to each other, especially simple people who believe in love and forgiveness.

AdTech Ad

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is an atheist hard to dislike. He’s charming, learned and intelligent, and never a bully. Ditto some ancients — here I rely on the ancient Athenian Taki and his epigrams — such as Socrates and his ilk. Also Voltaire and Mill, and so on. The first modern to go atheist and announce that God had had it was Nietzsche, who predictably went bonkers. Terrific shits like Freud and Picasso were atheists, as were French fries like Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan, and our very own H.G. Wells. And James Joyce and Philip Roth. One thing all these talented writers and thinkers have in common, apart from their disbelief in the Almighty, is great physical ugliness. That alone should explain it.

The great 20th-century theologian Paul Tillich wrote that to believe that God is active at all times, being out there somewhere, dwelling in a special place and being affected by events, is a shallow supposition: ‘Literalism deprives God of his ultimacy.’ That’s where ‘there is no God’, the cry from the heart of those who have lost a loved one, comes from. Ditto the old saw that you need God in order to be good. God is what makes us understand the difference between good and evil, take it from Taki.

The ultimate irony, needless to say, is that Charles Darwin said he believed in God. Let’s face it: most intelligent people believe in God, as did most world leaders in the past. My uncle, a war hero in the Albanian campaign when we wiped out the Italians, once told me that he had never seen courage like that shown by priests and medical orderlies in the thick of battle. Unarmed and without helmets, they would give the last rites to the dying and tend to the wounded. While soldiers dived into their foxholes, they would go out in the open field and make the sign of the cross over the fallen. God, in most cases, protected them. Go figure, you non-believers.

This is my 38th Christmas column, and of course it seems like yesterday that I wrote the first one. It was in my father’s London office in Albemarle Street. I used clichés galore and didn’t mention God once, just Christmas parties. I have probably come full circle. When Thomas Jefferson wrote that ‘all men are created equal’ he called the proposition self-evident. It was a very Christian thing to say because not all men are created equal. They have equal rights under God, and it is only a Christian God that ensures the latter. Just look at what Islam is doing to its adherents, how it has cheapened life to the extent that people volunteer to blow themselves up in order to get some rice and some virgins, and compare that to Christianity. The idea of the preciousness and equal worth of every human being is largely rooted in Christianity. Have a very happy Christmas and defend our faith. And, if need be, carry a knife.

This article is from the Spectator’s Christmas treble issue.

https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2015/12/atheism-may-be-fashionable-but-most-intelligent-people-believe-in-god/

.
Advertisements

Hundreds of Thousands of Polish Catholics are Expected on Saturday to “Pray the Rosary Together on Our Borders For World Peace”

October 6, 2017

AFP

.

© AFP / by Maja Czarnecka | A poster promoting the “Rosary to the Borders” initiative fixed in a Warsaw church

WARSAW (AFP) – Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics are expected to descend Saturday on the country’s borders to recite the rosary “to save Poland and the world” from the dangers facing them, organisers say, but others claim the event is aimed at protecting Europe from what they term a Muslim onslaught.

The episcopate insists that the “Rosary to the Borders” is a purely religious initiative, but some Catholics view it as a weapon against “Islamisation.”

 The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.
                
A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation said on the website of the event it is organising.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Twenty-two border dioceses will take part in the event, whose faithful will congregate in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The goal is to have as many prayer points as possible along the 3,511 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) that make up Poland’s borders with Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats will join in at sea, while kayaks and sailboats will form a chain along rivers and lakes. Prayers will also be said at the chapels of a few international airports.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup and outdoor

Praying the Rosary by Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

– ‘Spiritual barrier’ –

Organisers hope one million people will show for the event. The railways are offering tickets for a symbolic 1 zloty (27 cents, 23 euro cents) to around 40 destinations on the border.

Those who are unable to attend can instead catch the event live on ultra-Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja.

The goal is to pray for world peace, according to Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The initiative obviously received the approval of Poland’s bishops,” he told AFP, emphasising that it would be wrong to view the event as a prayer against the arrival of Muslim refugees.

“It is not a matter of closing ourselves off to others. On the contrary, the point of bringing the rosary to the borders is to break down walls and open ourselves up to Russians, Belarussians, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Germans,” he said.

But for the nationalist Catholic activist Marcin Dybowski, it is clear “that a religious war between Christianity and Islam is once again underway in Europe, just like in the past.”

“Europe has been invaded by Islam, which doesn’t respect our mores, our civilisation. The (terrorist) attacks leave behind hundreds of victims. Europe only makes a show of protecting borders,” he said.

Dybowski, an editor of religious books, is behind the Rosary Crusade for the Motherland, a religious and political initiative bringing together ultra-Catholic nationalists.

“The reality is that there are no borders. (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel opened them up to a large extent,” he told AFP.

“Poland is in danger. We need to shield our families, our homes, our country from all kinds of threats, including the de-Christianisation of our society, which the EU’s liberals want to impose on us,” he said.

“Austria and Hungary built barbed-wire walls against refugees. We’re using prayer to create a spiritual barrier against the dangers of terrorism.”

by Maja Czarnecka
.
Saturday is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary
.
Related:
.

Shabaab Islamists attack Somali army base killing at least 8

September 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab Islamists had claimed an earlier attack on a police station in Mogadishu in June, which killed at least five people

MOGADISHU (AFP) – Shabaab jihadists attacked a Somali army base early Friday in the southern town of Barire, killing at least eight soldiers and stealing equipment, officials and witnesses said.The assault on the Somali National Army military camp in Barire, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Mogadishu, began with two suicide attackers detonating their car bombs before gunmen overran the base.

“There was heavy fighting this morning,” said Mohamed Haji Ali, a Somali military commander, confirming the attack to local media without providing details of casualties.

Residents said the attack left bodies of government soldiers scattered on the ground while Shabaab fighters looted the base stealing vehicles and weapons.

“There were dead bodies around the military camp and I counted about eight of them from the Somali military but it could be more than that,” said Abdulahi Muktar.

Another resident described hearing two large blasts followed by heavy gunfire.

“This attack was very sophisticated with the militants raiding the base from three directions, there were two huge blasts presumably suicide bombs,” said Mohamed Malim.

SNA forces had only established the military outpost at Barire recently after taking control of the town in August with the help of African Union troops.

The Shabaab claimed the raid in a statement, confirming the use of suicide bombers.

“The attack started with two suicide bombings,” the militants said. “The Mujahedeen fighters forcefully took control of Barire, they destroyed the military base and confiscated about 11 vehicles, five of them mounted with machine guns.

The Al-Qaeda aligned group has been fighting to overthrow successive internationally-backed governments in Somalia for the last decade and carries out frequent attacks on military, government and civilian targets.

Related:

Thousands of Indonesians Hold Anti-Communist Protest in Capital — “President Joko Widodo is the son of communists and was not a Muslim”

September 29, 2017

JAKARTA — Several thousand protesters led by hardline Islamist groups held a rally on Friday outside Indonesia’s parliament to protest against what they called a growing threat from communism in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Rows of police stood behind barbed wire with water cannons at the ready, but the rally was peaceful and the number of protesters far smaller than the estimated tens of thousands expected by organisers and police.

Some protesters prayed and unfurled banners rejecting communism and also a government decree targeting large organisations that was used to disband the Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia.

“The country is giving space to communists and their activities,” said one protester, Mohamad Khairudin, 42, who had travelled from Surabaya, the country’s second largest city.

“Members of parliament have communist sympathies. And at the same time they are limiting space for Islamic organisations and criminalising ulama (scholars).”

 Image result for Protest in Jakarta, anti-communist, September 29, 2017, photos

Khairudin said he tended to believe reports on social media that President Joko Widodo was the son of communists and was not a Muslim, but did not provide any evidence of this or of a rise in communism.

Widodo has denied having any communist ties.

Communism remains an emotive issue in Indonesia and the protest took place on the eve of the 52nd anniversary of the murder of six army generals and a young lieutenant by rebel armed forces personnel, which prompted the retaliatory slaughter of at least 500,000 alleged communists.

The massacres ushered in more than 30 years of authoritarian rule under Suharto, the former general who led the communist purge.

 20,000 security personnel guard anti-communist rally in Jakarta

Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI), once one of the world’s largest, remains outlawed, however, and there appears to be little evidence of a Marxist ideology taking hold in Indonesia.

Just 12 percent of respondents to a September survey of 1,220 Indonesians believed the party was making a comeback now.

Analysts and government advisers said the fomenting of a “red scare” was aimed at Indonesia’s reformist president Widodo, who has previously been falsely accused of being the descendant of communists.

Related image

“We support parliament in ridding itself of PKI,” Slamet Maarif, one of the rally organisers told the crowd, accusing the government of oppressive measures and of creating a gulf between the state and Islam with a decree banning some organisations.

Friday’s rally has been organised by hardline Islamist groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The FPI led huge rallies last year that successfully demanded the jailing for blasphemy of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian who was Jakarta’s governor at the time.

(Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

************************************

Military personnel raid cafe in South Jakarta suspected of harboring communist sympathies

  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, September 29, 2017 | 01:14 pm

Military personnel raid cafe in South Jakarta suspected of harboring communist sympathies A South Jakarta 0504 Military District personnel is seen with the confiscated red flag at the Garasi 66 cafe in South Jakarta on Thursday. (Courtesy of Kodim 0504 Jakarta Selatan/File)

Military personnel have confiscated a flag marked with the hammer and sickle logo, the symbol of communism, from a cafe in South Jakarta.

Nearby residents reported the flag to the authorities, South Jakarta 0504 Military District commander Let. Col. Inf. Ade Rony Wijaya said on Friday.

“We took the flag away on Thursday. The logo was small and placed in red fabric,” Ade said as quoted by kompas.com.

The military cooperated with Public Order Agency personnel, the head of the neighborhood unit (RT) and some members of local youth organization Karang Taruna in the raid on the Garasi 66 cafe on Jl. Pangeran Antasari.

The banner was found installed at the window in the room of the cafe’s owner, Burdani, who is being investigated by military officers.

“We see no specific intent. Burdani travels a lot to many countries. He thought it was the flag of China,” Ade said.

Burdani was released after his identity was recorded by officers.

The issue of a communist revival in the country is in the spotlight once more.

Hundreds of anti-communists besieged the office of the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) on Sept. 17, accusing the organization of putting on a gathering associated with the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party. (yon)

Somalia’s Al Shabaab Militants Attack Military Base Outside Mogadishu, 17 Soldiers Believed Killed

September 29, 2017

MOGADISHU — Somalia’s al Shabaab fighters attacked a military base outside the capital Mogadishu using car bombs and guns, killing 17 soldiers and taking control of the base and a nearby town, the group said on Friday.

Residents and officials confirmed the attack, but gave no details on casualties.

“After morning prayer today, two Mujahideen rammed into Barire military base with suicide car bombs. We killed 17 soldiers and took seven technical vehicles,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman told Reuters on Friday, referring to pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns.

Image result for Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, photos

Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman

“The other soldiers ran helter skelter into the woods. We now control the base and the village.”

Barire is 50 km (30 miles) southwest of Mogadishu.

Al Shabaab aims to topple the government in Mogadishu and impose its strict owns interpretation of Islam. Somalia has been at war since 1991 when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

The al Qaeda-linked group was driven out of the capital in 2011, but still carries out frequent attacks on security and government targets, but also on civilians. They also target African Union peacekeeping troops.

Ali Nur, the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region where Barire is located, confirmed the fighting but gave no more details on casualties.

Residents in Barire also confirmed the attack.

Image result for news for Somalia's Al Shabaab, photos

“First we heard two huge blasts at the base and then heavy exchange of gunfire followed. Now it looks like the fighting died down,” Ali Farah told Reuters from Barire village.

Two weeks ago, al Shabaab attacked an army base at a town near the border with Kenya, while three weeks ago they struck another in the southern port city of Kismayu, killing at least 43 people in both incidents.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Editing by George Obulutsa and Michael Perry)

Germany’s hard-right AfD is anti-immigration, will make life for Merkel tougher — Germany is being turned “into a caliphate”?

September 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Frank ZELLER | The AfD is the first hard-right nationalist party to enter the German Bundestag in large numbers in the post-World War II era, an epochal event that stunned most Germans

BERLIN (AFP) – The Alternative for Germany (AfD) claims to be a force of “patriots” but some of its new lawmakers have shocked with xenophobic and revisionist comments and have been linked to far-right groups.The AfD is the first hard-right nationalist party to enter the German Bundestag in large numbers in the post-World War II era, an epochal event that stunned most Germans.

Since the party’s breakthrough in Sunday’s vote, the country has been scrutinising the biographies of the often little-known newcomers, elected on a platform of rejecting migrants, Muslims and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Among them are police officers, prosecutors and judges, academics and business leaders, soldiers and scientists, a one-time radio host, an undertaker and a former fighter-pilot.

A disproportionate number are from Germany’s ex-communist and poorer east, where the AfD was the number one party for male voters and won outright in the state of Saxony.

The AfD rails against “traitor” Merkel as public enemy number one, for opening German borders to an “invasion” of more than one million migrants since 2015.

Some MPs have links to PEGIDA, short for Patriots Against the Islamisation of the Occident, a street movement that emerged in the Saxony state capital of Dresden.

Other lawmakers have reported links to shadowy fraternities, football hooligans, Russian ultra-nationalists and the nativist Identitarian Movement, which is being watched by the BfV domestic security service.

One has reportedly driven a car with “AH1818” on its number plates, the Tagesspiegel daily wrote — neo-Nazi code for Adolf Hitler’s initials, followed by the number of those letters in the alphabet, listed twice.

And Jens Maier, a judge in Dresden, has drawn fire for voicing a degree of understanding for Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, reportedly saying that he had acted “out of desperation” over multiculturalism when he killed 77 people in 2011.

– ‘Europe of fatherlands’ –

Still giddy from the election, which made the AfD Germany’s third strongest party, its 93 freshly-baked lawmakers gathered this week in a modernist concrete-and-steel annex building to the glass-domed Reichstag that is still pockmarked from Word War II battles.

Lawmaker number 94 stayed away — Frauke Petry, the former face of the AfD, had theatrically walked out of a party press conference the day before to protest against its bitter infighting and radicalisation.

Co-Leader Beatrix von Storch, picking up her new parliamentary ID card, said it was time for the party to “get to work”.

Asked whether the AfD, with slogans like “Bikinis not Burkas”, is far-right, she replied: “We want to cap refugee numbers, we are against Islamisation, we want to preserve our culture, we want to protect our borders.

“We are for the classic family unit, we don’t want a United States of Europe, but a Europe of fatherlands. I think these are perfectly normal topics.”

– ‘Guilt cult’ –

The MPs include at least 13 with ultra-right views, 30 “nationalist-conservatives”, and 18 comparative “moderates”, according to a count by Die Zeit weekly, which said the allegiances of others were unclear.

Among the new MPs is Leif-Erik Holm, 47, a former radio host who has claimed Germany is being turned “into a caliphate”, and who ran against Merkel in her Baltic Coast electorate .

Merkel lost a lot of votes, he said, but “beating her would have been the icing on the cake”.

Some members are veterans of the AfD’s founding days in 2013, when it railed mainly against eurozone bailouts to crisis-hit Greece.

Others call for tougher law and order, traditional “family values” and fighting against what they consider a left-leaning establishment spreading its lies via a complicit media.

On the far right, leaders have shocked with taboo-breaking comments that challenge Germany’s culture of atonement over World War II and the Holocaust.

One is co-leader Alexander Gauland, 75, a defector from Merkel’s conservative bloc, who has urged Germans to be proud of their veterans from two world wars.

Another, Martin Renner, has criticised Germany’s “guilt cult”.

Asked about the comment, he stuck by the phrase but added that he had only learnt later that it was commonly used by the far-right and anti-Semitic NPD party.

Dozens of members are close to regional party leader Bjoern Hoecke, who has demanded “a 180-degree turn” in Germany’s culture of remembrance and called Berlin’s Holocaust monument a “memorial of shame”.

by Frank ZELLER

Indonesia, Once a Model of Moderate Islam, Slides Toward a Harder Line

September 13, 2017

Conservative Islamic groups are using political activism and charity work to build wide support for Shariah-inspired laws

Hard-Line Muslim Groups Make Inroads in Indonesia
Hard-line Islamic groups are challenging Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance and secular law.

In the Indonesian market town of Cianjur, new rules require government workers to clock in with their thumb prints at a downtown mosque to confirm attendance at morning prayers.

That’s on the order of district chief Irvan Rivano Muchtar, who also wants a 10 p.m. curfew for the town and is sending police to stop teenage girls and boys hanging out without parental supervision.

The 36-year-old elected official, who belongs to a mainstream, secular political party, likes traveling and listening to bands such as Coldplay. These days, he said, Islam is the key to political success.

Hard-line Islamic groups are using the country’s democratic system to promote new, Shariah-based laws, and have built support among citizens with charity work and public preaching. Being pulled in their wake are politicians such as Mr. Muchtar, and in concert, these forces are tipping a country known for its moderate brand of Islam toward the more politicized form associated with the Middle East.

“I didn’t come from a pesantren, so I have to learn and follow the culture,” said Mr. Muchtar, using the local term for an Islamic school. “I’m ready to recite the Quran, and sing rock ’n’ roll.”

Hard-Line Muslim Groups Make Inroads in Indonesia
Hard-line Islamic groups are challenging Indonesia’s tradition of religious tolerance and secular law. Video: Warangkan Chomchuen/WSJ. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Islamic country, has laws protecting the rights of Christians and other groups, a robust democracy and an open economy attracting investors such as Toyota Motor Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. There is a Hooters restaurant in Jakarta, where female staff in skimpy outfits serve up spicy chicken wings and frosted glasses of beer.

In recent years, lobbying groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front have helped introduce more than 400 Shariah-inspired laws, including those that penalize adultery, force women to wear headscarves and restrict them from going out at night.

They are supported by a popular mood that has turned more religiously conservative. Protesters last month forced officials to cover a 100-foot statue at a Confucian temple they called an affront to Islamic traditions. Over the past year other conservatives have demolished statues in Java and Sumatra depicting characters from traditional, pre-Islamic folk tales.

Students at an Islamic boarding school in June in Indonesia’s Banten province, an area that supports the FPI.PHOTOS: MUHAMMAD FADLI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL(3)

Women wearing headscarves are more visible, and the wait time for the limited permits to attend the Hajj to Mecca have risen to 30 years, from two years in 2000, according to government data.

Local elections take place across the country next year, and a presidential vote is scheduled for 2019. Some political analysts and local leaders expect conservative Muslims to expand their footprint. Some potential challengers to President Joko Widodo, a religious moderate, already are aligning themselves with hard-liners. “They are playing the long game,” said Sidney Jones, a director at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

One hard-line group that has seen success is the Islamic Defenders Front, known locally as FPI. In April it helped engineer the electoral defeat of Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and close ally of Mr. Widodo.

The FPI’s Novel Bamukmin gave a sermon during Ramadan’s evening prayer at a mosque in Central Jakarta in June, to an overflowing crowd. PHOTOS: MUHAMMAD FADLI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL(2)

The group and other conservative Muslims accused Mr. Purnama of blasphemy, a criminal offense, and organized mass protests to demand his prosecution. He lost re-election, was convicted and is serving a two-year prison sentence.

“The [Jakarta] governor election turned the FPI into something bigger than it had ever been before,” said Ms. Jones. “No one would have thought of it as a political power broker, and now that’s the role it has assumed.”

The FPI’s vision is clear. “The end goal is for [Indonesia] to be based on Shariah,” said Slamet Maarif, the group’s spokesman. That includes being whipped for violating rules concerning alcohol and extramarital sex.

“If you want to practice Islam, you cannot just be cherry picking. You should follow everything,” he said.

Other groups involved in the protests against Mr. Purnama question the economic influence of Indonesia’s minority ethnic-Chinese population, many of whom are Christian. Islamic leader Bachtiar Nasir, leader of the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulemas Council, wants Indonesia to follow its neighbor Malaysia by introducing an affirmative-action program to provide indigenous Indonesians with better access to capital and contracts.

FPI merchandise for sale in Jakarta.
FPI merchandise for sale in Jakarta. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD FADLI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Mr. Widodo, the president, was caught off guard by the strength of the Purnama protests, which were among the largest in Indonesia’s history, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

After not engaging with protesters for weeks, Mr. Widodo joined them at a prayer rally once Mr. Purnama’s political survival seemed in doubt.

More recently, his administration banned Hizbut Tahrir, a group that dreams of making Indonesia part of an international Islamic caliphate. During his annual state of the nation speech to parliament last month, the president, dressed in a traditional sarong instead of the usual business suit, said the country must unite behind its founding principles of respect for different faiths.

Police are investigating FPI founder Rizieq Shihab on suspicion of breaking Indonesia’s strict pornography laws, which were approved partly at the FPI’s behest several years ago, after he allegedly exchanged lewd text messages and images with a female admirer. Mr. Shihab, who has taken refuge in Saudi Arabia, denies wrongdoing.

FPI, highly organized and with members dressed in white, paramilitary-style uniforms, distributed food to the needy in a North Jakarta neighborhood in June. PHOTOS: MUHAMMAD FADLI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL(3)

Mr. Widodo has encouraged moderate Muslim groups to join his efforts to reassert Indonesia’s older, more inclusive traditions. One group, Nahdlatul Ulama, or Awakening of the Muslims, was formed in 1926 to resist ascetic strains of Islam from the Arabian peninsula. It is providing safe houses for people who have come under attack from the FPI for criticizing Mr. Shihab.

Indonesia began tilting toward a more austere version of Islam about two decades ago. A sprawling nation of 18,000 islands, it has long had a hard-line minority kept in check by a strong central government.

After the fall of autocrat Suharto in 1998, Jakarta devolved some powers to local provinces to prevent the rise of another dictator. Around the same time, Saudi Arabia began spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build mosques and schools in Indonesia to export its fundamentalist strain of Islam. FPI’s founder, Mr. Shihab, attended a Saudi-funded Islamic university in Jakarta and later studied in Saudi Arabia.

District chief Irvan Rivano Muchtar in Cianjur belongs to a secular political party but has implemented policies to please conservative Muslims.
District chief Irvan Rivano Muchtar in Cianjur belongs to a secular political party but has implemented policies to please conservative Muslims. PHOTO: JAMES HOOKWAY/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Many hard-liners view Aceh province, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, as a role model. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed nearly 170,000 people in the province, Indonesia’s government offered even more autonomy to local leaders to help speed reconstruction. The leaders introduced Shariah laws, based on Islamic teachings. In 2015, the laws were further tightened to permit caning for a wide range of moral offenses, from selling alcohol to gay sex.

Islam and the Income GapRising inequality of income in Indonesia iscredited with fueling a turn toward moreconservative Islam despite a growingeconomy and consumer class.THE WALL STREET JOURNALSource: World Bank*A measure of income distribution in which a smallerscore represents more equal society.
Gini coefficient*2000’05’10’150.250.300.350.400.45

A public caning there in May made national headlines. Ten people, including two men who had sex with each other, and an unmarried heterosexual couple who had been alone together, were struck by hooded enforcers in front of a roaring crowd.

Aceh remains the only place in Indonesia where Shariah forms the basis of the criminal code. Polling data is sparse, but a 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that 72% of Indonesian Muslims favored applying Shariah principles nationwide.

The FPI, with its cell-like organization and its followers’ white, paramilitary-style uniforms, is the most visible example of the growing strength of Indonesia’s conservative religious groups.

A man was caned in Aceh in May for having sex with another man.
A man was caned in Aceh in May for having sex with another man. PHOTO: CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

In its early days the group was known for smashing up Jakarta bars or scrawling graffiti such as “Jew-Free Zone.” U.S. diplomats have said the FPI served as a kind of paramilitary force for the police to extract bribes from brothels and other illegal businesses.

Mr. Maarif, the group’s spokesman, acknowledges working with police “like brothers” but denies being paid to do so.

A man in an FPI uniform watched evening prayers at Indonesia’s national mosque in Jakarta in June.
A man in an FPI uniform watched evening prayers at Indonesia’s national mosque in Jakarta in June. PHOTO:MUHAMMAD FADLI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Over time, the FPI revised its strategy to widen its appeal. It found new audiences on Facebook and other social media—often teenagers and young men.

FPI stepped into the national scene in the mid-2000s, when it drummed up protests against a no-nudes Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine. In 2012 it forced Lady Gaga to scrap a Jakarta concert, and the following year it compelled a Miss World pageant to move from the capital to the predominantly-Hindu island of Bali.

From Vigilantes to Kingmakers

Rizieq Shihab founds the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, as dictator Suharto resigns from office.

Mr. Shihab is sentenced to seven months in prison for inciting his followers to smash up bars and other entertainment venues the FPI deems immoral.PHOTO: ARDILES RANTE/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

FPI members led by Mr. Shihab attack a rally supporting religious freedom at Indonesia’s national monument in Jakarta, and Mr. Shihab is again arrested and sentenced to prison, this time for a year and a half.PHOTO: DITA ALANGKARA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

FPI members attack members of the Ahmaddiyah minority near Jakarta, beating three men to death.

Lady Gaga, singer and gay-rights advocate, canceled a concert in Jakarta after the FPI threatened to stop her from getting off her plane.PHOTO: DITA ALANGKARA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The FPI forces the Miss World pageant to relocate from Jakarta to the predominantly Hindu island of Bali.
The national government bans alcohol sales at convenience stores after pressure from the FPI and other Islamist groups.

The FPI accuses Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, of blasphemy, setting off a series of mass protests that ultimately led to the governor’s defeat in his re-election bid in April this year.PHOTO: BAY ISMOYO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Source: WSJ reporting

It successfully lobbied Indonesia’s Supreme Court in 2013 to overrule the government and allow local authorities to restrict sales of alcohol, arguing it was eating away at traditional Islamic values. In 2015, national authorities banned convenience stores from selling beer and liquor, contributing to the decision of the local franchisee for 7-Eleven to close its 160-plus stores in the country earlier this year.

“We still wreck bars. I want to emphasize that we still do that,” said Novel Bamukmin, another FPI leader with a punchy preaching style. But he said the group has used social media to grow. “We can reach a lot more people now.”

On Sept. 6, the FPI led a rally in Jakarta to protest Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority.

The group now has offices in 30 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces. It relentlessly raises funds at prayer rallies, and has built public support through charitable projects.

Over the past year it has been preaching and handing out food, water and tarps in Jakarta’s poor Kampung Akuarium neighborhood after the city government demolished homes for a new luxury housing development, displacing residents who worked nearby at the fishing port.

“They’re still helping us. It’s important just to know that someone is there because this situation is so stressful,” said Suyitono, a 63-year-old. (Many Indonesians use one name.)

The outreach programs reinforce Islamic values in many areas, said Fatah Sulaiman, a vice rector at Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa University in Serang, a city just east of Jakarta where the FPI also has a strong presence. “The politicians don’t have much choice but to follow,” he said.

An FPI billboard on the street near its headquarters in Jakarta in June.
An FPI billboard on the street near its headquarters in Jakarta in June. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD FADLI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The FPI had been looking for a way to oust Mr. Purnama, the former Jakarta governor, for years because it objected to the city of 14 million being ruled by a Christian. When Mr. Purnama last year made a lighthearted reference to a Quran verse that said Muslims shouldn’t be led by members of other faiths, the FPI accused him of blasphemy.

The group helped organize protests in Jakarta, including one with an estimated 500,000 people, many dressed in white, to demand his prosecution.

When campaigning began for the April elections, the FPI backed Anies Baswedan, a former university rector with a reputation as a moderate who cultivated the group’s support by meeting with them and reassuring them he had a conservative stance on social issues such as gay rights.

Mr. Baswedan won the vote comfortably. His political mentor, Prabowo Subianto, a politician who ran against Mr. Widodo for president in 2014 and is a likely presidential candidate in 2019, publicly thanked the FPI for its help in the win.

The FPI is now focusing on swaying the election in West Kalimantan province, on the island of Borneo, by putting up posters and holding prayer rallies. When the Christian governor there leaves office after reaching his term limit next year, they want to make sure a conservative Muslim succeeds him.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/indonesia-once-a-model-of-moderate-islam-slides-toward-a-harder-line-1505311774

China Facing Intensified Threat of Religious Infiltration, Extremism: Official

September 12, 2017

BEIJING — China is facing heightened threats from foreign infiltration via religion and from the spread of extremism, a top official for religious affairs said on Tuesday, after strict new rules were passed to manage religious practice in the country.

President Xi Jinping has emphasized the need to guard against foreign infiltration through religion and to prevent the spread of “extremist” ideology, while also being tolerant of traditional faiths that he sees as a salve to social ills.

China’s cabinet last week passed updated rules to regulate religion so as to bolster national security, fight extremism and restrict faith practiced outside state approved organizations. The new rules take effect in February.

Wang Zuoan, the head of China’s religious affairs bureau, said the revision was urgently needed because “the foreign use of religion to infiltrate (China) intensifies by the day and religious extremist thought is spreading in some areas.”

“Issues with religion on the internet are starting to break out … and illegal religious gatherings in some places continue despite bans,” he added, writing in the official paper of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily.

Wang said that freedom of religious faith is protected by the new rules.

“At the same time, freedom of religious faith is not equal to religious activities taking place without legal restrictions,” he added.

Religion within China needed to be “sinicized”, a term officials use to describe the adjusting of religion to fit Chinese culture as interpreted by the Party.

“These rules will help maintain the sinicization of religion in our country … and keep to the correct path of adapting religion to a socialist society,” he said.

China’s five officially sanctioned religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity – vowed to fight “desinicization” at a forum on the topic held in Beijing last week, according state media.

China has seen a revival of religious practice in recent decades after faith was effectively banned during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Official estimates put the number of believers at around 100 million, but scholars argue that the real number could be many times higher, due to many believers being unregistered with authorities.

China requires places of worship to be registered with authorities, but many believers shun official settings in preference for private gatherings often known as “underground” churches.

(Story corrects to reflect that rules were passed by China’s cabinet, not parliament, in third paragraph.)

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Chinese Imprisoned for 2 Years After Teaching About Islam — Taught about the Quran on a WeChat discussion group — China fears “Arabization”

September 12, 2017

BEIJING — A member of a Muslim minority group has been sentenced to two years in a Chinese prison after forming online discussions groups to teach about Islam.

Huang Shike was arrested in 2016 in Xinjiang province, three months after he formed a discussion group about Muslim worship on the messaging app WeChat, according to the official website China Judgments Online. Huang, 49, taught about the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in another WeChat discussion group. More than 100 people were members of each group, the website said.

The discussion groups “disturbed normal religious activity” and violated laws about using the internet to discuss religion, the website said.

Chinese authorities have dramatically increased surveillance and police patrols in Xinjiang, fearing the spread of militant Islam which they believe has infiltrated the region from Central Asia.

Huang is a member of the Hui minority. There are more than 20 million Muslims in China, mainly among Uighur, Hui and other ethnic minorities. China’s 10.6 million Hui — descendants of Muslim settlers and Chinese who converted to Islam — have long endured strained relations with the Han, who constitute more than 90 percent of China’s 1.37 billion people.

Chinese officials have increasingly urged local governments to better assimilate Muslim minorities into Han Chinese culture, as many ethnic policy hard-liners have decried a trend of what they call “Arabization” among Chinese Muslims.

NATO Forces in Afghanistan Apologize for ‘Highly Offensive’ Propaganda Leaflet

September 6, 2017

KABUL — A senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan apologized on Wednesday for a “highly offensive” propaganda leaflet which contained a passage from the Quran used in the Taliban militants’ banner superimposed on to the image of a dog.

The dog is considered unclean in Islam and associating an image of the animal with one of the religion’s most sacred texts prompted indignation.

The image, distributed by U.S. forces in Parwan province, north of Kabul on Tuesday, showed a white dog with a section of the Taliban’s banner superimposed on its side fleeing from the lion. The banner contains a passage from the Quran in Arabic.

“The design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam,” Major General James Linder said in a statement.

“I sincerely apologize. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide,” he said, adding that an investigation would be held “to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable”.

Parwan Governor Mohammad Hasem condemned the leaflet as “unforgivable” and said an investigation would be held.

“Those who have committed this unforgivable mistake in the publicity, propaganda or media section of the coalition forces will be tried and punished,” he said.

The incident highlights one of the challenges facing international forces in Afghanistan, most of which are from non-Muslim cultures, despite the efforts Western forces have generally taken to avoid stoking anti-foreigner sentiment by creating offence on religious grounds.

In 2012, U.S. commanders were forced to apologize after copies of the Quran and other religious texts were mistakenly burned at Bagram Air Base near Kabul. The incident sparked large demonstrations in Kabul and other provinces in which several people were killed.

On another occasion, a film of U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters caused widespread offence, prompting an investigation and criminal charges.

So-called information operations conducted by government and coalition forces have long been used to try to persuade local people to turn against the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Above the picture of the lion and the dog, the leaflet urged people to report insurgents to the authorities.

“Take back your freedom from the terrorist dogs and cooperate with coalition forces so they can target your enemy and eliminate them,” it said.

(Reporting by Qiamuddin Shams and James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie)