Friday, December 29, 2006

Christians have a tough row to hoe in "moderate" Syria

Recently, Ricky Warren kicked up a storm during a visit to Islamic Syria by meeting with the president and speaking favorably about conditions there for Jews and Christians. Even before his return to the States, his and his church's PR corps jumped into high gear to spin everything as a "why is evaboddy always pikkin' auhn maaeeeee?" thing. Much like many Emerging/Emergent types, when his statements were analyzed, he cried foul and claimed he was "taken out of context" and that those who took umbrage at what was stated and left unstated are big mean meanies who are meanly being mean. The bullies.

Anybody who has a heart for the persecuted church knows that while Syria isn't exactly Saudi Arabia or Turkmenistan or Indonesia, it's not precisely Club Med for Christians and Jews, either.

WorldNetDaily (one of the big meanly mean meanie bullies who are just mean) just published a great article that helps put it all into perspective.

Some specially salient specifics:

While Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Middle East nations are well-known for persecuting Christians, Syria's actions are of a lower profile. But it is listed among those nations around the world that persecute Christians by everyone from Jacobson's organization to the U.S. government.

In Syria, the constitution requires the president to be a Muslim and specifies that Islamic jurisprudence is a principal source of legislation. And sharing your Christian faith with someone – anyone – is discouraged as "posing a threat to the relations among religious groups" and carries a penalty of up to life in prison, he said.

"For Christians, one of the core tenets is the ability to share your faith, but in Syria that can lead to arrest (and) persecution," Jacobson said. "We list Syria as one of the top … countries where Christians are facing real persecution."

"Syria isn't Saudi Arabia, but it's one of the big untold stories out there," he said. For those who want to convert from Islam to Christianity, "you're disowned by your family, if the local mosque issues a death threat, no one is going to do anything about it, you'll just end up dead. Nothing is done, no police action, that's just understood.

For those who already are Christian, the government allows them to practice their religion – but within harsh and restrictive guidelines. A Christian is not allowed to proselytize – ever. And churches who want to hold an extra service must get a government permit. Sermons are routinely monitored, as is church fundraising.

WORLD Magazine cited the case of Samer, a Jordanian Christian, who was jailed in Syria for 50 days with no notification of the nature of his "crimes." He later was released from the Syrian court system and moved to the United States.

"I want [people] to understand that there is a false image of Islam as a religion of peace and compassion. Many countries of the Middle East have a good image here in the U.S., but their rules are not what Americans think … When [Islamic countries] talk about human rights and freedom, it's not true – unless you remain in Islam," he said.

Christian Solidarity International-USA also noted that "the historical process of Islamization has transformed Syria's once thriving Christian majority into a small frightened community. Its existence is under threat. Syrian's Baath Party dictatorship is not as violent in its persecution of Christians as some other regimes and extremist Islamist movements in the region. Yet, the odds are stacked against the country's intimidated Christians."

CSI spokesman Father Keith Roderick said Syria is a totalitarian state, and the Christian freedoms, or lack thereof, reflect that. "There are restrictions. It's not a free society, therefore religious express is not as free at it should be," he said.

He said one particular concern was Christian schools, which are required by law to have a Muslim principal. "It's a police state. Of course there are problems," he told WND.

Darn those nasty, mean meany facts! Oh, the meanly mean bullying bullyness of it all! Darn them! Darn them to heck!

I'm sorry, but the more I dig into this, the more I have to agree with my esteemed pastor friend from Bangor...

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