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Apr. 13, 2017

 
Director of WWII-Set BONHOEFFER'S COST at Agape Theatre Blasts Sean Spicer for Holocaust RemarksJeff Davis, Director of Agape Theatre’s upcoming Texas Premiere of the WWII-set BONHOEFFER’S COST, blasted White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for his recent remarks regarding Hitler and the Holocaust.On Tuesday, April 11th, when speaking on President Trump’s recent air strikes against Syria, Spicer said, “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” When reminded that Hitler used gas chambers to execute millions, Spicer replied, “[Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people the way that Assad is doing,” before referring to Concentration Camps as “Holocaust Centers.”

In response to Spicer’s outlandish and false statements, Davis writes “It baffles, saddens, angers, and greatly concerns me-both as someone who identifies as half-Jewish and simply as a human being-that a key White House representative ignores the atrocities of the Holocaust and then, when reminded of history, downplays its significance and importance. […] But Spicer is a microcosm of a bigger issue. There are thousands of people worldwide who deny the Holocaust ever happened, as if 6 million people just mysteriously disappeared. There are millions more, particularly among the younger generations, who live in ignorance of the Holocaust because they’ve yet to hear about the horrors perpetrated during World War II. And I’d wager there are billions worldwide who are oblivious that a new Holocaust is currently happening in Chechnya as homosexuals are being sent to Concentration Camps. It’s for these reasons and more that Agape Theatre has chosen to tell the story of Bonhoeffer’s Cost. […] As the final Holocaust survivors die off, it becomes the responsibility of artists and storytellers to tell the stories of those who are no longer with us.”

You can read Mr. Davis‘s full response to Spicer’s statements here.

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by   / December 16, 2016

The recent struggle for control of the Syrian city of Aleppo has brought renewed attention to the ongoing war crimes that have devastated this Middle East nation. Here are nine things you should know about Aleppo and the Syrian crisis:

1. In 2011, during the Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, protesters in Syria demanded the end of Ba’ath Party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in the country since 1971. In April 2011, the Syrian Army was sent to quell the protest, and soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion that has spread across the country. Although the conflict was originally between factions for and against President Assad, the civil war has broadened into a battle between the country’s Sunni majority against the president’s Shia Alawite sect. The conflict has drawn in neighboring countries and world powers and led to the rise of jihadist groups, including Islamic State (ISIS).

2. Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and contains the country’s largest population of Christians. Aleppo is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world behind only Damascus (also in Syria) and Byblos (Lebanon). Prior to the Syrian civil war, Aleppo contained about 10 percent of Syria’s population (roughly 2.3 million people).

3. The battle for Aleppo began in mid-July 2012, when anti-government rebels gained control of several districts within the city. Since then the city has been divided between the government-held west and rebel-held east. Beginning at the end of 2013, the Syrian government began aerial bombing of the eastern sections of the city, a tactic that has caused a humanitarian crisis that has disproportionately affected the city’s children.

4. Syria has a young population (median age is 24.1). While about half of the nearly 5 million refugees who have fled Syria are children, Unicef estimates that about eight million children remain in the country. Save the Children also estimates about 40 percent of the besieged population in eastern Aleppo are children. As Save the Children spokeswoman Carol Anning told the BBC, in war you should expect to see a much higher population of adult males being killed in frontline action. “But what we have seen in Aleppo in the last couple of days is totally indiscriminate bombing from the air,” Anning says. “So children are impacted just as much or more than adults in those situations.”

5. A 2015 report by the UN’s Human Rights Council notes “the conduct of an ever-increasing number of actors is characterized by a complete lack of adherence to the norms of international law.” A prime example is the use of sexual violence against girls and women. The report says, “Women and girls were found to have been raped and sexually assaulted in government detention facilities, in particular in the investigation branches of the Military Intelligence Directorate and prisons administered by the General Security Directorate in Damascus. State officials have perpetrated rape, a crime against humanity.” Rebel groups have also committed similar atrocities, with girls and women kept as slaves and “subject to horrific and repeated sexual violence. Girls and women in ISIS-controlled areas live in fear of forced marriage to the fighters.”

6. Since 2012, the Syrian government has used aerial “barrel bombs” (aka “flying IEDs”)—often dropping them on civilian populations. According to the Weapons Law Encyclopedia, a barrel bomb refers to an improvised container (e.g. an oil drum or gas cylinder) dropped from an aircraft and filled with explosive, incendiary, or other substances and often includes additional materials to increase fragment projection. The UN claims the Assad regime has dropped barrel bombs containing chemical agents, likely chlorine, on “crowded areas, such as bakery lines, transportation hubs, apartment buildings, and markets.” The use of such weapons against civilian populations or containing chemical weapons clearly violates international laws.

7. Throughout the conflict, anti-government forces have relied on a variety of terrorist tactics against civilians. The groups have kidnapped women and children—sometimes holding them hostage for years—to use them for ransom or prisoner exchanges. They have also used suicide and car bombs attacks against civilian and government targets. Rebel groups associated with ISIS have executed civilians who refuse to recognize their self-proclaimed rule, publicly amputated limbs as punishment for theft, and whipped residents for smoking and trading during prayer times.

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Photo

A family of refugees receiving an English lesson from William Stocks, 23, in Marietta, Ga. “My job is to serve these people,” Mr. Stocks said, “because they need to be served.” Credit Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

MARIETTA, Ga. — William Stocks, a white, Alabama-born, Republican-leaning member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, arrived at the tiny apartment of a Syrian refugee family on a Wednesday night after work. He was wearing a green-striped golf shirt and a gentle smile, and he was eager to teach yet another improvised session of English 101.

Mr. Stocks, 23, had recently moved to Georgia from Alabama, states where the governors are, like him, Southern Baptists. They are also among the more than 30 Republican governors who have publicly resisted the federal government’s plan to resettle refugees from war-ravaged Syria, fearing that the refugees might bring terrorism to their states.

To Mr. Stocks, such questions belonged in the realm of politics — and he had not come that evening for political reasons. Rather, he said, he had come as a follower of Christ. “My job is to serve these people,” he said, “because they need to be served.”

But politics and faith have always had the potential to conflict in the questions about resettling Syrian refugees in the United States.

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10/5/2015 Annie Cotton/Christian Aid Mission

Residents inspect damage from what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus.
Residents inspect damage from what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus. (Reuters)

At several steps on their path to death by beheading and crucifixion last month, 11 indigenous Christian workers near Aleppo, Syria, had the option to leave the area and live. The 12-year-old son of a ministry team leader also could have spared his life by denying Christ.

The indigenous missionaries were not required to stay at their ministry base in a village near Aleppo, Syria; rather, the ministry director who trained them had entreated them to leave. As the Islamic State (ISIS), other rebel groups and Syrian government forces turned Aleppo into a war zone of carnage and destruction, ISIS took over several outlying villages. The Syrian ministry workers in those villages chose to stay in order to provide aid in the name of Christ to survivors.

“I asked them to leave, but I gave them the freedom to choose,” said the ministry director, his voice tremulous as he recalled their horrific deaths. “As their leader, I should have insisted that they leave.”

They stayed because they believed they were called to share Christ with those caught in the crossfire, he said.

“Every time we talked to them,” the director said, “they were always saying, ‘We want to stay here—this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.’ They just wanted to stay and share the gospel.”

Those who chose to stay could have scattered and hid in other areas, as their surviving family members did. On a visit to the surviving relatives in hiding, the ministry director learned of the cruel executions.

The relatives said ISIS militants on Aug. 7 captured the Christian workers in a village whose name is withheld for security reasons. On Aug. 28, the militants asked if they had renounced Islam for Christianity. When the Christians said that they had, the rebels asked if they wanted to return to Islam. The Christians said they would never renounce Christ.

The 41-year-old team leader, his young son and two ministry members in their 20s were questioned at one village site where ISIS militants had summoned a crowd. The team leader presided over nine house churches he had helped to establish. His son was two months away from his 13th birthday.

“All were badly brutalized and then crucified,” the ministry leader said. “They were left on their crosses for two days. No one was allowed to remove them.”

The martyrs died beside signs the ISIS militants had put up identifying them as “infidels.”

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When Materialism’s Promise Proves Empty

What’s with all these stories of Western defections to Islamic radicalism? Well, the answer may be more over here than over there. I’ll explain, next on BreakPoint.

John Stonestreet

News broke recently of two beautiful teenage girls from Austria, aged 15 and 16, who became burka-wearing recruiters for the terror group known as ISIS, or the Islamic State. And their journey to radicalism is not an isolated case.

In my own state of Colorado, a 19-year-old female just pled guilty to trying to join ISIS, too. And then there are the two young American men who died in Syria fighting for ISIS.

Why are young 21st-century Westerners converting to a brutal form of Islam? Why would young people, with seemingly so much to live for, leave the West for terrorism?

This question came up last month in a panel discussion with radio hosts Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager, as well as Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute and myself. We all agreed that the answer was not the radicalism of Islam, but the current emptiness of Western materialism.daily_commentary_09_23_14

The idea that matter is all that matters pervades everything young people see and hear these days. They hear it in science class, from the new Cosmos television series, and even, and as I added especially, in advertising and other media messages. Nearly every commercial message tells us that we’re born to be consumers, that stuff will make us happy and save us from our misery, and that there’s nothing beyond the immediate gratification of this world to live for.

As Dennis Prager said that night, “Secular society produces a lot of bored people . . . Secular society is a curse because ultimately life is meaningless if there’s no God.” The materialistic salvation sold to us promises to fill what Pascal called the God-shaped hole in our hearts … with stuff. But many see the meaningless of secular salvation, and they become bored; others become angry, even murderous.

Remember Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who killed 13 people at Columbine High School? They weren’t Muslims. Then there’s T.J. Lane, a 19-year-old serving three life sentences for shooting to death three high school students in 2012. At his sentencing, in which he taunted his victims’ families with expletives, Lane opened his blue dress shirt to reveal a T-shirt on which he had scrawled the word “killer.”

We’ve always had young murderers, but the nihilism of today is different. Writing in Time several years ago, Harvard’s student body president called it the “Rude Boy” culture. The tough guy of the ‘60s and ‘70s, he observed, would say, “I’m better than you, I can beat you up”—but the tough guy today says, “I flip you off; you don’t matter and neither do I.”

And that’s a whole new level of brokenness. That’s the cultural shift toward nihilism. A few years ago, the rock band Switchfoot hit the nail on the head when they sang, “We were meant to live for so much more. But we lost ourselves.”

This sort of empty pop-nihilism, to borrow a term from Baylor’s Thomas Hibbs, makes even the evil radicalism of extremist Islam look attractive to some. And parasitic ideologies like these find folks in despair easy prey.

Might it be that ISIS finds this shallow ground as fertile soil from which to harvest young souls for its deadly agenda?

Decades ago, even before the Internet and social media took over so much of our lives, Aldous Huxley warned of the capacity of the media to exploit “man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.” Could it be that even ISIS looks attractive to those who, after having their fill, still feel empty inside?

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Rare Snowstorm Hits the Middle East

Unusual cold and precipitation affected Jerusalem and surrounding areas

BY 

Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013

The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, two of the holiest sites for Jews and Muslims, are shown covered in snow in Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

A powerful winter storm left Jerusalem covered in snow on Friday, forcing police to block access to and from the city as a cold snap drove some Israelis to seek treatment from emergency medics.

Rare snow also fell in Cairo’s suburbs and the port city of Alexandria while a blanket of white covered St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.

In Syria’s contested northern city of Aleppo, soldiers and rebels took a break from fighting as a thick layer of snow blanketed deserted streets, cars and buildings and temperatures hovered around zero.

An anti-government activist said it has been quieter than it has been in more than a year, since the storm began late Tuesday.

“All the fighters are cold and hiding,” the activist who uses the pseudonym Abu Raed said.

He said residents in the city were relying on diesel or wood heaters although some had only blankets. Snow also fell in Damascus, but was quickly washed away by the rain.

The weather also delayed for the second day an airlift of urgently needed food aid from Erbil, Iraq, to Qamishli in northeast Syria for displaced families, according to United Nations food agency. As soon as the Qamishli airport opens, WFP will start airlifting over 400 tons of food on two aircraft with 12 return flights between Iraq and Syria, it said.

Humanitarian agencies opted for air route because roads leading to Syria’s northern Hassakeh province have not been safe for convoy due to fighting in the area, the agency added.

The cold weather was part of a storm, dubbed Alexa, which has been pounding much of Lebanon and parts of northern Syria since Wednesday, pushing temperatures below zero in mountainous areas and dumping snow and heavy rains. The snow has heaped another layer of misery on the already grim existence of many of the more than 2 million Syrians who have fled the civil war raging in their homeland.

In Lebanon, snow fell on northern and eastern regions where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees are staying, many of them in flimsy plastic tents.

by JOE CARTER

Last week, the Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons in an attack that killed 1,429 people in Damascus. Here are 9 things you should know about chemical weapons.

1. The general and traditional definition of a chemical weapon is a toxic chemical contained in a delivery system, such as a bomb or shell. The Chemical Weapons Convention (the international treaty that bans chemical weapons) applies the term to any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action.

2. The toxic chemicals that have been used as chemical weapons, or have been developed for use as chemical weapons, can be categorized as choking, blister, blood, or nerve agents. The most well known agents are choking agents—chlorine and phosgene; blister agents—mustard and lewisite; and blood agents—hydrogen cyanide, and nerve agents—sarin, tabun, VX.

3. It is believed that Syria is able to develop and produce the blistering agent, mustard gas, as well as the nerve gas sarin–and possibly also VX nerve agent.  Nerve agents are called that because they attack the human nervous system.

4. A lethal dose (2 teaspoons) of VX, absorbed through the skin, can kill within minutes. A lethal dose (0.06 ounces) of sarin, absorbed through the skin, can kill within 5-10 minutes. A lethal dose (.14 ounces) of tabun, absorbed through the skin, can kill within 15-20 minutes.

5. Sarin is a nerve agent first developed by German researchers in the late 1930s. Up to 500 times more toxic than cyanide, it is a colorless and odorless liquid that causes severe muscle spasms, vision loss, and asphyxia, and which can kill within a minute of contact in extreme cases. The best-known recent use of sarin previously was in the1995 Tokyo subway attack in which members of a domestic cult-turned-terrorist group punctured bags of liquid sarin with sharpened umbrella tips in subway cars. At least 13 people died in the attack and some 1,000 were injured. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein also used sarin against Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq war, and in 1988 as part of the cocktail of chemical weapons he unleashed against the Kurdish population of Halabja in northern Iraq. Sarin was classified as a “weapon of mass destruction” and banned in the United Nations’ Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993.

6. Mustard gas is not a particularly effective killing agent (though in high enough doses it is fatal) but can be used to harass and disable the enemy and pollute the battlefield. Only four percent of combat deaths in World War I were caused by gas. In that war, the skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused extremely painful internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure.

7. During World War II, Japan was the only country to use chemical weapons on the battlefield. Adolf Hitler refrained from the use of chemical weapons in war, though not from the use of poison gases in concentration camps, likely because of fear of reprisals in kind. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union both maintained enormous stockpiles of chemical weapons, amounting to tens of thousands of tons. The amount of chemical weapons held by these two countries was enough to destroy much of the human and animal life on Earth.

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