Signs of the Times (3/2/15)

Can Christianity Survive in the Middle East?

Christianity was born in Bethlehem, in what’s now the West Bank. It took root among people like the Assyrians, who flourished in ancient Mesopotamia. It soon found a home in places like modern-day Turkey. Christianity traces its past squarely to the Middle East. But do Christians have a future there? It’s hard to ignore the depravity of ISIS beheading 21 Egyptian Christians on a beach in Libya, CNN notes. Nor can one shake off stories of women and children among the 262 Christians captured by ISIS in Syria, one of several horrors faced by Christians in that nation and neighboring Iraq. All this chaos has shrunk the percentage of the Middle East’s once-sizable population of openly practicing Christians. The percentage of Christians relative to the Mideast’s overall population has gone from 13.6% in 1910 to 4.2% in 2010, and it’s expected to drop even further.

This isn’t to say Christianity itself is dying out. It is growing in places like Africa, Asia, South America and — surprisingly — some of the most dogmatic, restrictive nations in the Middle East. According to the World Religion Database, places like Qatar and Bahrain have seen their Christian ranks surge from basically nothing a century ago to 10% and 13% of their respective populations. The World Religion Database projects Saudi Arabia will have more than 1.5 million Christians by 2025.

  • When CNN highlights Christian persecution in the Middle East you know that it’s reached epidemic proportions. ISIS and Satan hate Christianity even more than they hate Israel.

Wesleyan University Offers Housing for 15 Alternate ‘Sexualities’

Wesleyan University, once a Christian school, is now offering campus housing for 15 different alternative sexualities, also known as LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM, reports OneNewsNow.com It has a specific place for sadomasochists, but straight males looking to join a men-only fraternity are out of luck. Named after the renowned 18th-century evangelical theologian John Wesley, Wesleyan University has abandoned its Christian values on its Connecticut campus and is currently known as a secular academic institution. But even as a post-Christian university, Wesleyan is now setting new standards for secular humanist campus culture. For Wesleyan undergrads not looking to live in men-only frat houses, housing options abound. Students without degrees are required to live on campus and can choose from: the Womanist House, the Malcolm X House, the Lighthouse (welcoming “open-minded Christians”), the Women of Color House and houses designated for Asians and Latinos, just to name a few. Under another housing option, Wesleyan’s Office of Residential Life invites gender-confused students who identify themselves under the umbrella of one or more of the 15 alternative sexualities to join a house embracing everyone but heterosexuals.

  • By following humanist doctrine to its ultimate conclusion, the absurdity becomes abundantly apparent

Poll Finds Majority Support for Religious Freedom and Voter-Approved Definition of Marriage

A new poll finds that more than 53% of Americans agree with Arizona’s voter-approved definition of marriage as only the union of one man and one woman. The poll also found that more than 8 in 10 Americans believe people who hold to this voter-approved definition of marriage should be free to follow these beliefs in their daily lives or in the way they run a business. The poll comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments over whether voters have the freedom to set marriage law in their state. WPA Opinion Research, who conducted the poll of 800 registered voters, also surveyed whether the Supreme Court should uphold the right of voters to define marriage. The poll found that 61% agree that “states and citizens should remain free to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Cathi Herrod, President of Center for Arizona Policy, said: “The Supreme Court should not silence the will of the voters. What’s more, the government should not penalize people for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Norway Deports Muslims, Crime Drops

In October, Norway made the controversial decision to deport 824 Muslims with ties to radical groups. Despite all the liberals in Norway deeming this “racist”, the government went ahead with it and the results were staggering. Violent crime decreased by 30%.

  • While most Americans and Europeans would call this unfair to target a certain race or religion, these results more than justify the deportation. The U.S. is rife with Islamist sleeper cells many of which are known to authorities. A mass deportation would be the most significant Homeland Security measure we could take to reduce future violence.

Persecution Watch

Customers ordering flowers online from the Marks & Spencer website can use words such as “jihad”, Buddha and Allah in accompanying messages. But other words such as “Christ” and “Jesus Christ” are banned, along with profanities, and the word “gay”. Customers who try to add a free message when they buy flowers cannot complete their order if they attempt to use one of the banned words. A pop-up message tells them: “Sorry, there’s something in your message we can’t write.” The restrictions were exposed by The Sunday Times after a customer was prevented from buying a bouquet for a funeral. Clergy wife Geraldine Stockford tried to attach a message to the flowers stating that they were from a family in “Christ Church Teddington”. She was prevented from doing so.

More than 14 homes and churches have been torched and missionary centers vandalized in the area around Kaga-Bandoro, in the north-central part of the Central African Republic. Local Christians told Barnabas Fund that many pastors fled to the town of Kaga-Bandoro, where another church was burned. In the attack, Fulani Muslims destroyed everything in an area of around five to thirty kilometers between Kaga-Bandoro and Wandago. Fields and property belonging to the people living in rural areas were either seized or destroyed by Fulanis. Prior to the attack, seven people, most of them Christians, were killed in the village of Bolom.

Congress Averts Homeland Security Shutdown

Congress narrowly averted a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security late Friday. Both the House and Senate passed a seven-day extension of funding for the agency, with the House acting just two hours before funding was set to expire at midnight. The successful last-ditch effort came after House Republican leaders failed to muster enough votes earlier in the day to continue funding the agency for three weeks. A shutdown would have resulted in the furlough of more than 30,000 of the agency’s 240,000 employees. Most employees are considered too essential to the nation’s security to be furloughed, so they would have had to work without pay. The department includes Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Rift Widens over Netanyahu Visit

American Jewish leaders and activists are worried about widening political divisions between Israel and the White House sparked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to Congress on Tuesday despite strident objections by President Obama. Many are concerned about the threat to Israel from Iran’s nuclear program and the prospect of a weak deal with the United States to curb it, an issue on which Netanyahu has been an outspoken Obama critic. Even so, they believe Netanyahu’s unrestrained attacks on the White House and in-your-face visit jeopardizes the close ties Israel has long enjoyed with the United States. More than two dozen Democrats are boycotting his speech, as Republicans have accused President Obama of not being supportive enough of Israel.

  • It is President Obama’s fault for turning his back on Israel in favor of Muslim interests.

Student Aid to Illegal Immigrants Stirs Debate

Several U.S. colleges are giving financial aid directly to students who are young illegal immigrants, extending the debate about helping people in the United States illegally at the expense of Americans who are in need of similar opportunities. Such opportunities have opened up since President Obama’s 2012 executive action that deferred deportation to millions of young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. However, they still are largely ineligible for state or federal student aid. For example, New York University — which receives federal, state and city money — says the aid given to illegal immigrants is not at the expense of American students. However, critics note that the financial aid purse is not unlimited and aiding one group is always at the expense of another. Other colleges reportedly acknowledge that the financial aid for illegal immigrant students comes from the same coffers that help American students but argue that diversity is always an admissions’ challenge and that illegal immigrant students bring a unique perspective to the campus community.

Deadly bacteria released at high-security lab

The release of deadly bacteria from a high-security laboratory in Louisiana has raised concerns that it has spread to soil and water outside the facility. Federal and state officials have spent weeks trying to determine how the potential bioterror agent — which can live and grow in soil and water — was released from the Tulane National Primate Research Center north of New Orleans. Yet the cause of the release and extent of the contamination remain unknown. While limited tests haven’t detected the bacteria outdoors, some officials are pressing behind the scenes for more action because monkeys kept in outdoor pens away from the lab have been sickened, an examination by USA TODAY reveals.

Economic News

The S&P 500 had its best month in February since October 2011 — gaining nearly 5.5%. Not to be outdone, the Nasdaq soared just over 7%, and the Dow rose 5.6%.Markets in Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden hit all-time highs. Japan, the poster child of deflation, saw its stock index reach its highest point in 15 years. Even Greece saw its stock market tick up despite its austerity and bailout woes.

  • Have we created yet another bubble about to burst?

Islamic State

Nineteen Assyrian Christian captives were released by Sunday by ISIS, with ten others expected to also be released soon. All but one of the Christians released were part of a group of 220 Assyrians captured last week during offensives on northern Syrian villages, said the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. In the shadow of its brutal killings, the sudden reversal leaves many asking: Why? The group has not explained its decision. Osama Edward, who heads the Assyrian Human Rights Network, said “They were treated well, nobody was tortured.” Christian activist Edward thinks the ISIS Sharia court decision was, in part, a nod to Syrian Sunni Muslim tribal leaders who negotiated for the Christians’ release.

A video released last week from ISIS showed the terrorist organization training children as young as 5 years old. Christian News Network reports the video was filmed at the Al Farouq Institue for Cubs in Raqqa. Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project said. “For ISIS supporters, this is like signing your kid up for the best private school. ISIS is emphasizing its child recruits because it obviously makes for good footage but also to emphasize this is a generational struggle,” he added. “You can kill off the current leaders and fighters, but their kids will fight on. It makes it harder to celebrate ISIS’ losses if you know their manpower will be replenished with brainwashed children.”

The Islamic State has declared a new target in its war on the West — a co-founder of Twitter. Twitter has routinely shut down Islamic State social media accounts, particularly those that threaten or link to beheadings and other atrocities. The militant group ISIS posted an online threat Sunday warning Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey that “your virtual war on the Internet will cause a real war on you.” “You started this failed war,” the ISIS post says. “We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back. But when our lions [brave men] come and take your breath, you will never come back to life.”

Iraq

Iraqi government troops backed by allied Shiite and Sunni fighters on Monday began a military operation to recapture Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit from Islamic State extremists. The city, which lies about 80 miles north of Baghdad, was taken over by ISIS militants last summer. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops began to attack ISIL positions in Tikrit from the northern, western and southern fronts early Monday, backed by airstrikes and artillery, Al Jazeera reported. Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, and other parts of the Sunni heartland were also taken over by ISIL after the collapse of national security forces. Soldiers backed by airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition recaptured the nearby oil refinery town of Beiji in November.

Ukraine

The estimated number of people killed in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 now exceeds 6,000 “in spite of successive ceasefires,” the UN Human Rights Office announced in a statement on Monday. The escalation in fighting in recent weeks, particularly near Donetsk airport and in the Debaltseve area, resulted in hundreds of deaths, both civilian and military. The report paints a picture of “merciless devastation of civilian lives and infrastructure,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. He called for all sides to adhere to the Minsk agreement, which calls for a ceasefire in many of the conflict’s hotspots.

Russia

Moscow was reeling Saturday after the shooting death of prominent opposition leader Boris Nemtsov just steps away from the Kremlin. Nemtsov, 55, a former first deputy prime minister, was shot and killed shortly before midnight Friday by an unknown gunman who jumped from a white car, fired around seven shots then sped off. Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was set to appear at an opposition march scheduled Sunday against Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, where a separatist conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces has left more than 5,000 dead since last April. Moscow, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in March, has denied allegations that it is arming separatist rebels and sending troops to Ukraine’s east. Nemtsov had been working on a report proving Russia’s involvement in the conflict. Putin’s popularity has skyrocketed following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, despite the toll on the country’s economy. “It’s a move towards a new level of repression,” an opposition member said. “The regime has turned to political killings.”

Kenya

In this country of widespread poverty, one of the most lucrative businesses is also one of the most heartbreaking: baby trafficking. It is common in Kayole, a slum in the capital Nairobi, for gangs to steal infants or buy them from mothers who can’t afford to have more children. Fueling the trade are couples seeking to adopt children, kidnappers extracting ransoms from families desperate to reclaim their little ones and the economic value of children forced into labor. Children in Kenya can fetch between $2,000 and $3,000, depending on their gender, race and tribe — far more than the $1,246 annual income the average Kenyan earns.

Cuba

American officials concluded a meeting with Cuban diplomats on Friday hopeful that the two sides could re-establish full diplomatic relations in the next two months. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who led the second round of negotiations with her Cuban counterparts, said there was a “cooperative spirit” in the day-long meeting. She said the two sides discussed a range of issues, including human rights, banking and expanded freedom for each country’s diplomats. The progress made leaves her hopeful that both countries can establish full embassies in their respective capitals in time for the Summit of the Americas in early April in Panama. The talks come after the historic December announcement by President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro that they would begin the process of reestablishing diplomatic relations following a 50-year freeze.

Weather

After a weekend of dumping heavy snow, Winter Storm Thor is lashing the Southwest with rain and coating mountain ranges across the area with even more snow. In California, a mudslide shut down a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway in both directions early Sunday morning. Winter Storm Warnings and advisories covered Colorado’s High Country Sunday ahead of what could be several feet of snow in the southwestern mountains. Thor’s new layer of snow will be on top of piles of snow left by previous storms across the state in the last few weeks. Hazardous roads became a problem in New Mexico over the weekend as Thor dumped a year’s worth of snow in just three days. Albuquerque police responded to nearly 400 crashes during the weekend as drivers spun out on roads like Interstate 40. A car lost control and was struck by a freight train crossing tracks at Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona, leaving one person injured.

Winter Storm Sparta continued Saturday to cause a travel nightmare in several states, killing four and causing multiple closures after laying down a sheet of ice on roads. A large pileup involving several semis, cars and a Greyhound Bus closed Interstate 44 in both directions Saturday afternoon near Rolla, Missouri. Hundreds of flights were canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport because of poor weather. Icy roads and bridges were making travel difficult in North Carolina Sunday.

Ice coverage on the Great Lakes reached 86.8 percent on Feb. 27, marking the second winter in a row that ice coverage has exceeded 80 percent. The ice coverage may continue to grow through the end of the month with bitter cold temperatures currently in place. The last time ice coverage was over 80 percent in back-to-back years was in the 1970s.

The winter of 2014-15 has been so warm across a wide swath of the West that more than 20 cities set records for the warmest meteorological winter, which runs from Dec. 1 to the end of February while the East shivered through record lows, the Weather Channel reported Monday. San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas were among cities blessed with record-balmy winters. But a couple thousand miles away, February brought a snow record for Boston’s and record cold for Cleveland, Buffalo, Syracuse, N.Y.; Harrisburg, Pa., and several other cities.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme no matter what the globalists attempt to do to combat climate change

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