I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist. As it turns out, many people aren’t. But in the wake of Epstein’s absurd death, all of America has donned the tinfoil hat. The official story of Epstein’s suicide is riddled with holes; it’s a conspiracy theorists dream. The mere fact that a billionaire such as Epstein is engaged in human trafficking in the first place is already a big deal when it comes to conspiracy theories. The problem, though, is that the FBI is now going after conspiracy theories just in time for Epstein’s demise.
Last year, Open Doors, a non-denominational organization, revealed that individuals murdered 4300 Christians for religious reasons in 2018. After the report though, governments and individuals across the world took relatively little action. This year has proven otherwise, as Christian murder rates are only increasing.
Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka marked the country’s deadliest violence in a decade, leaving more than 320 dead and more than 500 injured. The terrorist attack targeted Christians, a religious minority in the country, on one of Christianity’s holiest days: Easter. Two local Islamist radical groups were allegedly involved: National Thowheeth Jama’ath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.
Yet, despite Christians being the clear victims of the attacks, mainstream media and politicians around the world have decided to focus on the perpetrators rather than those that lost their lives.
Rafael Augusto B.L. de Oliveira | Brazil
What does it mean to be a Christian? To some, it means finding shelter and strength through our Lord’s word in order to overcome our daily challenges. To others, it means helping those in need. Whatever are your reasons to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, being a Christian isn’t always an easy task; our faith has tests all the time. To be a Christian sometimes means having to face hatred and persecution. During hard times, it’s quite important for we Christians to keep our faith strong and stay united.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
– John 15:18-19 (KJV)
Christian Persecution in the World
When I say persecution, not only do I mean that Christians are being oppressed through violent means, but also through less obvious means such as biased laws and psychological bullying. A good example of this is how in several countries in the Middle East, laws force Christians to restrict their expression of faith.
Schools commonly teach about past oppression and violence against Christians. Unfortunately, many of these issues still occur today in parts of the world. Without action, it may only get worse. Currently, persecution of Christians happens mostly in theocratic Muslim countries and areas where terrorist cells have control.
For example, extremists in Syria levied a jizya on any non-Muslims. Those who could not comply had to either convert to Islam or face death. where Christians are a minority and are forced to live under strict regulations such as paying special taxes and not being allowed to practice their faith in public. Moreover, Islamic Saudi authorities violently imprisoned 35 Christians in 2012 for holding a prayer circle.
In several other countries, Christians and other minority religions may only practice their faith in private. In fact, nations with Sharia law often ban items and articles from other religions such as Crucifixes and statues. The mistreatment of Christians is not exclusively in Muslim countries. It also occurs in the Jewish state of Israel and dictatorships such as North Korea. According to Open Doors, the totalitarian state holds some 50,000 Christians in forced-labor camps.
Open Doors: Christians Murdered in 2018
Sometimes the dedication we have for Christ can even lead to murder. In 2018, 4300 Christians were killed across the globe, according to Open Doors, a non-denominational mission with the goal of helping Christians in countries where Christianity is oppressed for cultural or political reasons. Sadly, the number is only going up. In 2017, there were 3066 murders of Christians for religious reasons. This represents a 40% increase from the previous year.
However, Open Doors is attempting to eventually bring this number to zero. Andrew van der Bijl founded the group as a small operation to illegally smuggle Bibles to Soviet-controlled Poland in the cold war. Later on, they expanded, smuggling Bibles all over the Communist bloc. Nowadays, Open Doors helps Christians exert their rightful will of regularly practicing their faith in over 70 countries where oppressive laws still exist.
An Increased Danger
As stated above, the murder rate of Christians drastically increased last year. Unfortunately, the coming years may spell out even more danger for the world’s most common religion. Several factors are leading to this. Michel Varton, the current director of Open Doors, stated that ”The number of vandalized Churches in regions where Christianity is a minority, has highly increased in the past few years”.
Clashes with Christianity
In the internet age, information is at everyone’s hands. So, it is becoming more difficult for dictatorships to dumb down the masses. But unfortunately, many countries still use religion as a tool by teaching a twisted, radicalized version of Islam.
Governments of Muslim-majority countries often see the spread of Christianity as a threat to their power. As a result, they tend to discretely marginalize Christianity through Sharia law. For some of them, Christianity is a symbol of Western imperialism. Thus, they perceive it as a sign of disrespect to their local cultures and customs.
Some oppressive governments in Asia also see the expansion of Christianity as a threat. This has been a notably growing trend in several parts of Asia with Hindu fanaticism and Buddhist radicalism. Both have taken an aggressive stance towards foreign religions in recent years.
The Spread of Radical Islam
The vast majority of the incoming immigrants and refugees from the Middle East just want to mind their own businesses and have a chance for a fresh start in the Western world. Unfortunately, a small minority are violent radicals. With a recent uptick in radical Islam in Sweden and other countries, persecution of Christians may increase.
An End in Sight?
At this time, it does not appear that the next few years will bring an end to these horrific murders. However, groups like Open Doors and others hope to minimize the casualties and enrich religious freedom. We have only scratched the surface about this, but as the internet thrives, it appears that awareness for Christian persecution may also rise. With this, awareness groups may hope to raise more funds and rally more people to their cause to end intolerance.
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Ryan Lau | @agorisms
Already, the 2020 election cycle is beginning to heat up. After a 2016 rift in the Democratic Party, the political party is seeking to reunite against President Trump. Yet, eight candidates have already declared their own shots at the presidency. One of these candidates is Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard.
A veteran of the Iraq War, she claims to be of the non-interventionist wing of the party. In many ways, she hopes to cater to those who voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016. Gabbard does happen to be like Sanders in many ways, but this only reflects her deceit and double-sidedness.
Is Tulsi Gabbard Really Antiwar?
One of Tulsi Gabbard’s biggest talking points so far is that she opposes wars. In particular, she has criticized continual actions on the part of the United States in Syria and Afghanistan. However, it would be foolish to equate these limited responses with truly opposing the practice on its face. There is a clear difference between opposing a particular war and opposing the very concept of war.
An excellent place to begin searching for Gabbard’s true position is her voting record. But rather than portraying the 37-year-old congresswoman as a dove, it suggests that she is more mixed on the matter. Admittedly, she did oppose two key defense funding bills in 2018. Yet, the same is not true for the bill that would appropriate this funding.
On September 26, 2018, Tulsi Gabbard voted in favor of a key defense appropriations bill that, quite frankly, had some absurd elements. First of all, it appropriated a grand total of $670 billion for the military in 2019. Though she seemed to oppose gargantuan spending levels previously, it appears Gabbard had no problem voting for it the next time it came through.
Moreover, the bill prohibits any funding to be used for the release or transfer of individuals at Guantanamo Bay. Amnesty International has long since called the detention camp “The Gulag of our time“, and the inhumane modes of torture that the base forces on its prisoners are no surprise. Even the United Nations, an organization in no way fervently dedicated to peace, has tried to get the United States to close Guantanamo Bay. Tulsi Gabbard, though, voted for an appropriation bill that would make it much more difficult to remove those detained from the subhuman conditions that the camp does little to hide. Such a move shows blatant disregard for human life, a value generally necessary to truly be antiwar.
A Hawk on Terrorism
In addition, it is worth noting that Gabbard has even admitted to not unilaterally opposing war. Particularly, she proudly supports wars against terrorism. In 2016, she told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that “When it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk”.
The interesting thing about this statement is that it undermines her very opposition to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. Without a doubt, there are active terrorist groups in both of those areas. By her own definition, therefore, she logically favors wars in the Middle East that fight terrorism. Yet, these have had disastrous effects. In particular, our actions in Afghanistan led to a surge in Al Qaeda membership. At the time of 9/11, the group only had about 400 members, but at the height of the war, they boasted tens of thousands.
Wars against terrorists, and specifically, the War on Terror, usually lead to the terrorists winning. And considering that the definition of terrorism is violence for political gain, it is unclear just at what point Gabbard’s own military interventions would qualify as acts of terrorism. Being a hawk against terrorists is not an admirable trait.
In Favor of Drone Strikes
Furthermore, Tulsi Gabbard has very clearly stated that she favors the use of drone strikes against military opponents. Admittedly, this is preferable to supporting an all-out ground war, but it is also a far cry from being anti-war. It appears that her concerns more closely are for the lives of exclusively Americans. This position blatantly disregards the lives of the many foreign civilians that American drones kill every year.
In this way, Gabbard appears to more closely mirror the tactics of Presidents Trump and Obama. After all, Obama’s drone strikes have killed many civilians in eight countries. There is absolutely nothing that indicates that Gabbard’s use of drones against “terrorists” (I use the term in quotations because they are the ones defending their homeland, while the American military ravages their cities) would produce a noticeably different result.
All in all, it appears that Tulsi Gabbard is not truly opposed to war. Though she may be slightly less hawkish than some other candidates, this is an easy task; it does not, in any meaningful way, show a real dedication to peace. Do not let her words fool you, and do not expect a sudden policy of peace if she wins the presidency in 2020. Tulsi Gabbard, through her support of wars and drone strikes, is little more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.