Month Archives: November 2020

The Dying Art of Gratitude

by Molly Carman

November 25, 2020

If I asked you to list some things you are grateful for in the year 2020, what would you say? In a trying year like this one, it can be far easier to list challenges, tragedies, complaints, disappointments, and frustrations. This Thanksgiving, it’s highly likely that the thing many people are most grateful for is a new year being on the horizon. However, as families gather this holiday season, I want to challenge everyone to look not only to the future but also to reflect upon the past. There is far more to be thankful for this year than we likely have taken the time to consider.

We cannot always control whether our circumstances get better or worse, but we can choose how we will respond. Scripture exhorts us to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4), learn the secret of being content (Philippians 4:12), and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We do not know what tomorrow will bring, and a new year does not necessarily equal a better one. But we do know that God holds the future, and we are called to remember His praiseworthy deeds, thank Him for what He has done, and trust Him for what He will do.

The Thanksgiving holiday is historically a day to remember the pilgrims and the founding of America, and traditionally a day to gather with family and friends to count our blessings. But being thankful ought not to start and stop on Thanksgiving Day.

Unfortunately, gratitude is an increasingly dying art in our culture, and Thanksgiving has become a mere speed bump on the way to Christmas. Far too often, we focus on what we want rather than being thankful for all we have.

God does not waste anything—not even 2020. Sometimes, trials we face may seem wasted when we are not paying attention and learning from our experiences. Everything that we see, hear, and feel is used by God to teach us. “[B]ut we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Instead of despising 2020 or wishing it were over, we can seek the beauty in the ashes. Consider Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie’s response to their difficult circumstances while being held in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. These sisters walked through the valley of the shadow of death together; it is hard to imagine anything in Auschwitz worth being grateful for. However, Betsie constantly encouraged everyone in her bunker to be grateful. One day, Betsie said that she was grateful for the fleas that infested their mattresses. Yes, the fleas! The guards hated the fleas and would not enter the bunker. This meant they could worship together without intrusion, and that was worth being grateful for.

The year 2020 has been hard, but it is thankfully not Auschwitz. We have much more than fleas for which to be grateful this year. As you carve the turkey, decorate cookies, roast corn, sit by the fire, sing hymns, or whatever your Thanksgiving traditions might be—and even if you are lonely this Thanksgiving—remember that we need not be anxious for anything, for the Lord has and will continue to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus (Matthew 6:25).

I am grateful for how 2020 has taught me to be humble before the Lord, to surrender my plans to Him, to trust Him in all circumstances, and to run with endurance the race set before me—not because I know what the journey will hold, but because I have hope in the final outcome, which is God’s glory and my sanctification. Being grateful is challenging because it requires us to forsake selfishness, whining, and complaining and embrace contentment. If the art of gratitude were easy, we would not need to be commanded and encouraged to cultivate it. Saying we are thankful once a year on Thanksgiving will not resurrect the dying art of gratitude. Rather, we must endeavor to start and end each day with a grateful heart.

How Blasphemy Laws Violate Religious Freedom

by Rachel Nicole

November 23, 2020

What do an Austrian woman, an Indonesian Buddhist, and a Pakistani couple all have in common? In the past year, all of them were taken to court and found guilty of blasphemy laws in their respective countries.

According to Family Research Council’s newly updated publication, Criminalizing Conscience: The Status of Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Anti-conversion Laws Around the World: “Blasphemy laws generally prohibit insults to religion… in many Muslim-majority countries, they are often abused when allegations of blasphemy are made against religious minorities—often with no evidence—to settle unrelated disputes and vendettas.”

In 2018, an Austrian woman offered two seminars on Islam. She presented facts about the Prophet Mohammed’s life, including his marriage to an underage child. Soon after, she was convicted of blasphemy due to her “derogatory” remarks. The European Court of Human Rights refused to overturn the conviction, deferring to the Austrian courts’ judgment that her actions were “capable of arousing justified indignation.” However, even humanists agree that the case sets a bad precedent for Europe.

Indonesia has recently made great strides toward becoming a moderate Muslim nation. But blasphemy laws remain a problem. In 2018, a Buddhist woman was convicted of blasphemy after asking a nearby mosque to lower the volume of its speakers broadcasting the call to prayer. The Indonesian Supreme Court rejected her appeal in April 2019. She was paroled one month later.

In a particularly extreme case, an illiterate Pakistani couple, Shagufta and Shafqat, were arrested after a Muslim cleric claimed he had received a blasphemous text message from Shagufta’s phone. Authorities charged both Shagufta and Shafqat with “insulting the Qur’an” and “insulting the Prophet.” These crimes are punishable by life imprisonment and death, respectively. However, the texts they are accused of sending were in English, and the impoverished couple is illiterate, unable to text in English or their native Urdu. The couple remains imprisoned on death row, separated from each other and their four children. A recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found that, as of December 2019, at least 17 people were on death row after being convicted on blasphemy charges.

Amid such dire human rights violations around the world, President Donald Trumpprioritized religious freedom in his administration, going as far as to make international religious freedom an issue ofnational security.

FRC President Tony Perkins has also been a consistent advocate of religious minorities who have fallen victim to religious persecution. In 2018, Perkins was in Izmir, Turkey, representing the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) at the trial for Pastor Andrew Brunson. He traveled with Brunson back to the U.S. upon the pastor’s release. Perkins was at Pastor Brunson’s side as he prayed for President Trump in the Oval Office within hours of reentering the United States.

From the very beginning, FRC has worked alongside the Trump administration to promote faith, family, and freedom, including religious freedom. On October 30, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order on Advancing International Religious Freedom, declaring religious freedom protection as both a domestic and foreign policy priority. The order dedicates $50 million for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund programs that promote and defend religious freedoms abroad.

The global community must come to terms with the human rights abuses that have been inflicted on religious minorities all over the world. Although the persecuted belong to various faiths, Christians remain the most heavily persecuted religious minority in the world.

Americans believe that freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech are God-given, unalienable rights. In contrast, a great majority of the world’s governments do not hold the same beliefs. At a time when the voices of so many oppressed religious minorities are being snuffed out, Family Research Council is determined to amplify its effort to promote religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.

To learn more about blasphemy laws and other laws that threaten the fundamental right to religious freedom, check out FRC’s publication, Criminalizing Conscience.

Rachel Nicole is an intern focusing on international religious freedom with the Center for Religious Liberty in FRC’s Policy & Government Affairs Department.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of November 15)

by Family Research Council

November 20, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Trump Team Looks at Cause and Elect

In courtrooms across the country, the Trump campaign fights on. Whether his efforts will be enough to save his presidency, no one knows. But could they save an election system bogged down by doubts and questions? That, in the long run, may be just as important.

2. Update: Radical ’Heroes Act’ Is a Leftist Wish-List

The Left has recently called for the passage of the Heroes Act—an act Democrats are labeling simply as coronavirus relief legislation. But, this $2-$3 trillion bill goes beyond being a relief package. The Heroes Act is serving as a trojan horse for progressive legislation that foolishly uses taxpayer dollars and undermines pro-life and pro-family values.

3. Blog: 4 Disturbing Trends in Religious Freedom Worldwide

A new report released by the Pew Research Center has found that there has been a 50 percent increase in government restrictions on religion across the globe between 2007 and 2018, the most recent year studied. Such a drastic number indicates that religious freedom is on a rapid downward spiral.

4. Blog: Nagorno-Karabakh Survivors: “My Home Is in Ruins. I Have Nothing Left”

Currently, there is a terrible war in Nagorno-Karabakh, a community of Christians residing in an historic Armenian enclave. Their homeland was invaded in late September by neighboring Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country. This invasion broke a 1994 cease-fire between the two countries. But to make matters worse, in this latest attack, Turkey seems to have encouraged if not inspired the assault.

5. Washington WatchDr. Albert Mohler Previews Biden’s War on Christian Institutions in the Name of ‘Equality’

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Human Rights Campaign demanding that a Biden administration deny accreditation to Christian colleges and schools.

6. Washington Watch: Senator Lindsey Graham Discusses the Big Tech Hearings in the U.S. Senate

Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator from South Carolina and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Big Tech hearings in the U.S. Senate.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: A Time of Prayer

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Eric Metaxas, Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Jody Hice to lead in a special time of prayer for our nation.

Christian Persecution: A Glaring Blind Spot in Nigeria and Beyond

by Lela Gilbert

November 20, 2020

Traveling by road into Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeast, has become one of the most dangerous journeys on earth.” So begins an alarming and timely Wall Street Journal article about ever-encroaching violence in Nigeria, Africa’s largest country and most powerful financial center. 

Writer Joe Parkinson describes four primary highways that lead into that northern Nigerian city, once known as “Home of Peace.” Along those roads some 200 people have been murdered in the past six months. Since its happier days, today Maiduguri is better known as the birthplace of Boko Haram, the brutal Islamist terrorist group.

The attacks are conducted by militants fighting for Boko Haram and a splinter group loyal to Islamic State,” Parkinson explains. “With each passing month they become more brazen, targeting civilians, aid workers, soldiers and even the state’s most powerful politicians.”

And unlike most Western reporters, Parkinson notes that Christians are specifically targeted in these attacks. “Soldiers and Maiduguri residents who travel the roads say the extremists regularly erect mobile checkpoints, searching for Christians and government employees to kidnap for ransom or execute on the roadside.” 

Family Research Council’s 2020 report on Nigeria points out that although violence against Christian communities by Muslim attackers was recognized well before the founding of Boko Haram, it became much more intense and frequent after 2009, when the group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian authorities. Subsequently the group—along with other smaller jihadi sects—became notably more deadly and dangerous. 

With this acceleration in recent years, verified reports of murders, rapes, mutilations, and kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have persistently increased. These attacks are frequently accompanied by the torching of homes, churches, villages, and agricultural fields. A July 15, 2020 headline reported that 1,202 Nigerian Christians were killed in the first six months of 2020. This is in addition to 11,000 Christians who have been killed since June 2015. Such violence has reached a point at which expert observers and analysts are warning of a progressive genocide—a “slow-motion war” specifically targeting Christians across Africa’s largest and most economically powerful nation.

In one well-known incident, a 14-year-old Christian girl was abducted by Boko Haram in February 2018. Leah Sharibu has been in captivity ever since. Leah and her classmates were rounded up during an attack on Dapchi, a small village in Yobe State. When Boko Haram shot its way into town, panic ensued, and everyone fled. Days later, once the scattered students had returned to their classes, a roll call revealed that 110 girls were missing— including Leah.

Although the Muslim girls who survived the attack were eventually released, Leah refused to deny her Christian faith. She remains in captivity to this day, enslaved and reportedly having given birth to the child of one of her captors. She continues to be the focus of worldwide prayer.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram isn’t the only group attacking Christians. Another group, known as Fulani herdsmen or tribesmen, have been slaughtering entire Christian communities during increasingly frequent attacks in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. Yet—despite their obvious targeting of churches, Christian communities, pastors, and seminary students—some scholars, analysts and, unfortunately, even U.S. authorities refuse to recognize the religious nature of numerous attacks and attackers.

Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom at Hudson Institute writes:

While there is some recognition of the primary, self-declared, religious mission of Boko Haram and the numerous ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates that have made West Africa the world center of terrorism, there is still widespread resistance to recognition of the religious nature of attacks by Fulani tribesmen on predominantly Christian villages, people and churches 

In her July 17, 2019, confirmation hearing, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard referred to the carnage in the Middle Belt of Nigeria as “banditry and inter-communal conflict” and “escalating farmer-herder and inter-communal conflict frequently based in resource competition, but enflamed by conflation of ethnic and religious overlays.”

Abraham Cooper and Johnnie Moore, in their book The Next Jihad: Stop the Christian Genocide in Africa describe a meeting they had in February 2020 with Amb. Leonard in which they discussed the possible religious aspects of the violence wracking the country. “She denied that it was at all about religion and described the conflict as ‘fundamentally a resource issue…. Religion was, according to Ambassador Leonard, only relevant as it served as a potential accelerant to conflict. She left us with the impression that people like us, by speaking up for victims of religious persecution, were part of the problem. We found this to be hugely alarming.” 

Some years ago, Paul Marshall, Roberta Ahmanson and I co-authored a book called Blind Spot: Why Journalists Don’t Get Religion. We learned that many—if not most—mainstream journalists are from very secular backgrounds, know little about faith, spiritual awareness, or devotion, and simply don’t see how religion deeply shapes culture and conduct in most of the world beyond the West.

However, sad to say, it isn’t just journalists. A close look at many diplomats, intelligence officers, politicians, and academics exposes that they share that same blind spot with journalists.

It is still remarkable, however, that although self-proclaimed jihadis slaughter Christians in their homes, churches, and fields, beheading them and shouting Allahu-Akbar as a victory cry, observers do not acknowledge the killers’ Islamist intensions. As we’ve seen in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, and far beyond, the truth about anti-Christian violence is seldom disclosed, understood, or reported. It’s a blind spot for sure. And it’s a deadly one.

Of Dogs and Unborn Babies

by Mary Jayne Caum

November 19, 2020

For the last two weeks, fallout from the election chaos has dominated the news cycle. Because of this, state and local initiatives have largely gone unnoticed. But two important laws were on the ballot in Colorado: (1) Proposition 115 and (2) a repeal of Denver’s pit bull ban.

Proposition 115 was a state-wide initiative to ban late-term abortions throughout Colorado. If successful, it would have been illegal to commit an abortion in Colorado once an unborn child reaches 22 weeks gestation. Proposition 115 specified that committing an abortion on an unborn child who has reached at least 22 weeks gestation would be a misdemeanor and any abortionists who violated this law would be subjected to professional penalties including suspension of their medical license. Of course, the measure did exempt from prosecution the woman who underwent the abortion. It also allowed an abortion after 22 weeks gestation when the life of the mother was at risk. Despite scientific and philosophical support for banning these late-term abortions, Colorodans voted to continue the dangerous and deadly practice.           

In Denver, Colorado, another measure was in the hands of the citizenry. For 30 years, it has been illegal to own a pit bull in Denver. This law banning pit bulls resulted from several pit bull attacks in Colorado in the 1980s, and the stigma surrounding certain breeds including pit bulls. For years, pit bulls have been stigmatized as an inherently aggressive breed waiting to tear you limb from limb. However, the facts simply do not align with this myth. The National Geographic reports that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that pit bulls are inherently aggressive and dangerous. Changing attitudes towards pit bulls combined with widespread initiatives to destigmatize the breed resulted in Denver’s decision to lift the ban on pit bulls. Personally, this author supports Denver’s decision to allow pit bulls. As a dog mom, it warms my heart to see dogs rescued, given a chance, or destigmatized. While I applaud the people of Denver’s decision to legalize pit bulls, I do find Colorado’s stance on human life and animal life troubling.            

An unborn child is viable somewhere around 22-24 weeks gestation. Neonatal medicine defines viability, “as the gestational age at which there is a 50% chance of survival with or without medical care.” Therefore, last week in Colorado, the voters elected to continue aborting viable babies while lifting a ban on pit bull ownership in Denver. Critics may claim I am comparing apples and oranges. Colorado is not populated by Denver alone. However, almost 6 million people live in Colorado, while almost 3 million people live in metro Denver. So it is safe to say that the attitudes of individuals in metro Denver represents the mindset of at least half of Colorado. With that in mind, let us return to the point of this article: the inherent worth of a child vs. the inherent worth of an animal.

As a Christian, I believe both man and beast have value. However, man is worth so much more. Because humans are made in the image of God, we have inherent worth and dignity. Our value is so great, God sacrificed His holy and glorious Son and raised Him from the dead to purchase us from the grips of sin and death. While reflecting upon His creation, God deemed nature and its animals “good” while praising man as “very good.” No matter how much we try to devalue life in our society, men and women are inherently priceless and imbued with a dignity God did not bestow on any of His other creations.

This is not to say we should be cruel to our animals. One of the wisdom books in the Bible espouses its readers, “the righteous care for the needs of their animals.” Therefore, according to God’s Word, one of the distinguishing features of a righteous person is the manner in which he treats animals. For this reason, I rejoice when another shelter dog is rescued, a dog fight organizer is prosecuted, and a pit bull is allowed to be loved.

However, we cannot confuse our duty to properly care for animals with the inherent worth and dignity of our fellow man. After creating man, God exhorted Adam to have dominion over the animals God created. Abortion fundamentally rejects the dignity and worth of every human being. Instead of recognizing the humanity of every unborn child, we devalue and sacrifice our unborn children in the name of convenience, preference, and career advancement. As a society, we cannot continue down this path of devaluing human life. 

While we pat ourselves on the back for being progressive and rejecting the fallacious notion that certain dog breeds are inherently aggressive, let us not forget our fellow man. It is a well known fact that when an abortion is committed against a child around 22 weeks gestation, the abortionist’s preferred method of murder is dismemberment abortion (also known as D&E: dilation and evacuation abortion). Although Denver was correct to statutorily reject the idea that pit bulls inherently desire to tear humans limb from limb, Colorado was wrong to leave unborn infants vulnerable to abortionists who tear these innocent children limb from limb.

Sadly, I believe the prophetic words of G.K Chesterton have been realized, “Wherever there is animal worship there is human sacrifice.” Let us reverse this trend of human sacrifice. Let us honor our Creator by protecting His creation: both animal and human. While enjoying the companionship of our furry friends, we should continue to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of each human individual—born and unborn.

Mary Jayne Caum works in State & Local Affairs at Family Research Council.

4 Disturbing Trends in Religious Freedom Worldwide

by Arielle Del Turco

November 16, 2020

A report released last week by the Pew Research Center has found that there has been a 50 percent increase in government restrictions on religion across the globe between 2007 and 2018, the most recent year studied. Such a drastic number indicates that religious freedom is on a rapid downward spiral.

This is troubling, and it presents a myriad of security, economic, and human rights challenges for the millions of people who live under governments that are tightening restrictions on peaceful religious practices. For world leaders and advocates to successfully begin addressing these issues, it is critical to understand what is happening around the world and what is driving increasing attacks on religious freedom.

Pew’s extensive survey reveals a lot about what religious believers are enduring around the world—both from governments and from social hostilities. Here are four take-aways from Pew’s new report:

1. Government restrictions on religion are rising in Asia.

Asia and the Pacific had the biggest increase in the amount of government restrictions on religion in 2018. Pew researchers found that governments used force against religious believers and groups in 62 percent of countries in Asia and the Pacific, including detention, displacement, abuse, and killings.

Asia is a worsening hotspot for religious persecution. Just in the last several years, China has started a campaign of mass detention of Uyghur Muslims, North Korea remains the world’s worst persecutor of Christians, and apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws across Asia restrict individuals’ rights to choose and change their faith. These developments are all concerning and all deserve the world’s attention and advocacy.

2. Authoritarian regimes pose the greatest threat to religious freedom.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pew found a “strong association between authoritarianism and government restrictions on religion.” Around 65 percent of countries with very high government restrictions on religion have authoritarian governments. In contrast, no countries with very high government restrictions were classified as full democracies.

3. Three Middle Eastern countries have both the highest levels of government restrictions and social hostility to religion.

Egypt, Syria, and Iraq are the only three countries which were found to have both very high government restrictions and very high social hostilities toward religion in 2018. Targeted religious believers in these countries endure governments that impede their freedom to practice their faith and face private groups or individuals that regularly harass or abuse them. This is a deadly combination, and it is indicative of the severe challenges faced by believers throughout the entire Middle East.  

4. Harassment due to religion remains high.

Harassment due to religion occurs in 185 out of 198 countries—the vast majority of the world. While this is slightly down from the previous year, the number of countries where Christians experienced harassment rose slightly.

Pew considers harassment to include everything from verbal abuse to physical violence and killings which are motivated because of a person’s religious identity. Christians and Muslims reportedly faced the most harassment for their faith worldwide. The region of the Middle East and North Africa is especially dangerous. In 2018, Christians in 19 out of the 20 total countries faced harassment by social groups or the government.

Ultimately, it should be a wake-up call to the world that religious persecution is at the highest point it has been in the past 11 years when Pew began tracking it. Things are getting worse, not better. And that is tragic for millions of religious people around the world just trying to live out their faith. The persecuted—especially those living under highly restrictive authoritarian regimes—are often unable to speak up for themselves. It falls, then, to those of us in free societies to speak up on their behalf.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of November 8)

by Family Research Council

November 13, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Media’s Early Call: Dancing on the Stealing?

No one expected the media to play fair, but watching the networks declare Joe Biden the winner of a race that’s still unresolved in key states was not only difficult—but frustrating for fans of the democratic process. When all is said and done, Joe Biden may very well be the winner. But first we must make sure the rule of law was respected.

2. Update: The Presidential Election: A Work in Process

There are about 100,000 votes out of 150 million cast deciding states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Nevada. If this were Joe Biden, trailing by such a small margin, we would be dealing with the exact same scenario—except for one thing. The media, ever eager to delegitimize Trump, would never have called the election.

3. Blog: The Media Still Doesn’t Get It: Conservatives Tend to Vote Conservative

Four years after one of the most shocking presidential upsets in American history, and after another incredibly close election, the mainstream media still has not figured out why almost half of American voters filled in the oval for Donald Trump. The primary motivating factor is as plain as day: millions of Americans are conservative, and they voted for a president that has enacted conservative policies.

4. Blog: Legitimizing Looting Jeopardizes Liberty for All

The year 2020 will go down in history for a number of reasons, one of which will be the increase of protests, rioting, and looting following the tragic death of George Floyd. While some protestors have been authentically peaceful, others have resorted to destructive actions, which some argue “liberates societies from oppressive infrastructures.” Can that be right?

5. Washington WatchMatt Schlapp Highlights New Evidence of Voter Fraud

Are there legitimate claims of voter fraud? Matt Schlapp, president of American Conservative Union, joined Tony Perkins on Washington Watch to share what he saw on the ground in Nevada and the new evidence of fraud surfacing in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

6. Washington Watch: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Discusses the World’s Reaction to America’s Election Drama

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Tony Perkins on Washington Watch to discuss the Trump administration’s religious freedom agenda, the latest on China, and the world’s reaction to America’s election drama.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: A Call to Prayer

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Pastor Carter Conlon, Michele Bachmann, and Pastor Gary Hamrick to lead in a special time of prayer as we continue to pray for election transparency, honest public discussion, truth to prevail, and peace to reign throughout our nation.

Nagorno-Karabakh Survivors: “My Home Is in Ruins. I Have Nothing Left”

by Lela Gilbert

November 13, 2020

For weeks, FRC has been closely tracking the terrible war in Nagorno-Karabakh, a community of some 150,000 Christians residing in an historic Armenian enclave. Their homeland was invaded in late September by neighboring Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country. This invasion broke a 1994 cease-fire between the two countries. But to make matters worse, in this latest incursion, Turkey seems to have encouraged if not inspired the assault, providing massive military and financial support to the Azeris. Turkey’s Islamist President also transported thousands of Syrian mercenaries into the battle, more than a few of which were jihadis.

Baroness Cox is a life peer in Britain’s House of Lords and a Christian human rights activist, whom I first met in 2003. We met in Nagorno-Karabagh, a place that has been dear to her heart since an earlier war in 1990-1994, in which she arranged to provide generous financial and material support for the beleaguered Armenian Christians there. Along with other friends, we traveled to the tiny enclave—locally known as Artsakh. There we heard the stories of community leaders, Armenian Orthodox clergy, soldiers, and everyday Christians about the terrible violence they endured in those early 1990s battles. Baroness Cox’s love for the people and the land was deeply moving.

A few months after that trip, I was asked to write a biography of Baroness Cox’s work as a defender of human rights and persecuted Christians. Her efforts have spanned decades, spent in far-flung places like Poland, Russia, Burma, Nigeria, Indonesia, Sudan, and of course Nagorno-Karabakh. The book, Baroness Cox: Eyewitness to a Broken World, was released in London in 2007, and later that year in the United States. She and I remain in close touch, and I am in the process of writing a new, updated version of her book.

Today, Baroness Cox is in Yerevan, Armenia, and I received the following press release from her yesterday morning, describing the terrible aftermath of this latest Nagorno-Karabakh war. Please pray for the people who are suffering there—many of whom have lost everything including their loved ones, their homes, and their hopes for the future.

*** 

12 November 2020 // For immediate release   

MY HOME IS IN RUINS. I HAVE NOTHING LEFT’  

BARONESS COX ALONGSIDE DISPLACED FAMILIES IN ARMENIA  

Civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh “hid under trees to escape aerial bombardments” with bodies “so destroyed” that DNA was needed to identify them, according to local witnesses who have been forced to flee their homes.    

A mother-of-four told Baroness Cox on Tuesday: “My husband, a firefighter, was killed in attacks by Azerbaijan. I escaped in a car with my kids. But my home is in ruins. I have nothing left.” She said: “His body was so destroyed that we needed DNA to identify him. Everything in the village has been stolen or demolished.”

Evidence of torture and mutilations’

One family – whose son, an Armenian soldier, was captured by Azeri forces – said: “His phone was stolen by his captors and they posted an image of his beheaded body and sent this to his own social media account for his own family and friends to see.”

The same concerns were raised by the Armenian Human Rights Ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, who told Baroness Cox: “We have video evidence of torture and mutilations. Civilians and POWs are humiliated by their captors. Azerbaijan have returned 29 military bodies and few civilians – DNA was needed to identify four bodies. But it refuses to provide the list of current prisoners (30 now known, but there is likely many more) and continues to withhold information and access to prisoners from the Red Cross.”

A fragile peace?

Meanwhile, concerns remain over the fragility of Monday’s peace deal, which was brokered by Russia and agreed by Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Before the ceasefire was agreed, Azerbaijan targeted civilian infrastructure including hospitals, schools, homes, churches and electricity and water supplies. Supported by Turkey, its military forces reportedly deployed cluster bombs, heavy artillery and phosphorous – contrary to international law – with widespread evidence of torture, mutilation, humiliation and killings.  

Emergency aid    

Baroness Cox arranged an emergency visit to Armenia to take aid to HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust) partners and to show solidarity with the Armenian people as they seek to hold their frontline of faith and freedom. She said:   

Given the past and recent history, the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh justifiably fear the possibility of ethnic cleansing. Despite Monday’s ceasefire, reports continue to emerge of brutality inflicted on military and civilian prisoners, including torture and beheadings, with claims that equivalent brutalities have been perpetrated by jihadists who receive payment for every Armenian beheaded.   

We are told that, when Azeris kill or capture any Armenians, they take over their social media accounts and send pictures of dismembered, decapitated bodies to their mothers and wives. It is impossible to fathom the suffering inflicted on these women, waiting to hear from their husbands, brothers or sons, and not knowing what might come to their phone.  

We hope – and pray – that the ceasefire will bring an end to the military offensives by Azerbaijan, that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh will be able to re-build their lives, and that peace will prevail. But as the crisis continues to unfold, Nagorno-Karabakh’s rightful claim to self-determination must be supported by the international community as an urgent priority.”  

HART remains committed to providing advocacy and aid for our partners in Nagorno-Karabakh, continuing to support our valiant partner Vardan Tadevosyan’s work with people with disabilities.

Legitimizing Looting Jeopardizes Liberty for All

by Molly Carman

November 9, 2020

The year 2020 will go down in history for a number of reasons, including a divisive presidential election, a global pandemic, and high levels of unemployment. It will also be remembered for an increase in civil unrest—numerous American cities were the scene of protests, rioting, and looting following the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25. While some protestors have been authentically peaceful, others have resorted to destructive actions such as burning down buildings, vandalizing, and looting and damaging storefronts.

Vicky Osterweil’s book, In Defense of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action, was published in August—just three months after the unrest sparked by Floyd’s death began. Osterweil says looting liberates societies from oppressive infrastructures set up by white males—namely, capitalism and the police force—and believes looting is only illegal because it is effective.

Osterweil is wrong. Looting does not liberate society; it jeopardizes liberty.

The Subversion of the Law, Police, Capitalism, and MLK

Osterweil alleges that four aspects of America’s history and social structure have led to an oppressive and racist society. According to Osterweil, change will only occur when these structures are overturned—and one of the essential means of overturning them is looting.

The first aspect is slavery. Osterweil claims Abraham Lincoln did not free the slaves; rather, “The enslaved freed themselves. They did so with an act of mass looting and strike that shook the regime of white supremacist capitalism to its core: they stole themselves…” (p. 39). Osterweil argues that looting was made illegal precisely because African-Americans were the ones doing the looting. In other words, looting was outlawed to ensure white Americans stayed in power. The logical response to this is, what if African-Americans are the ones being looted? Osterweil makes no differentiation between looting minority-owned stores and white-owned stores. In any case, no matter what the ethnicity of the store owners is, the justification or legitimization of the act of looting is always wrong and is always immoral.

The second aspect is police. According to Osterweil, police officers are the new, government-authorized version of the Ku Klux Klan: “The forces doing that everyday work of repression, deferral, and destruction have tended to wear a blue cap or a white hood” (p. 73). Osterweil alleges police officers are not intended to promote justice, uphold the law, or maintain peace in our neighborhoods. Rather, they are intended to oppress minorities and enforce power. Later in the chapter on police, Osterweil makes this all-encompassing statement: “The slave catcher is thus embedded in the DNA of all modern police forces” (p. 82).

Osterweil is convinced that the police were organized and established to reproduce and continue colonialism, slavery, and racism. In other words, there are no real criminals, only those whom the police see as a threat to their regime. What Osterweil neglects to mention is that not all police officers are white males. In fact, 65 percent of police officers are white, which means that when you encounter a police officer, they are only 15 percent more likely to be white than a minority. No matter what ethnicity police officers are, the law is meaningless without enforcement, and without enforcement, communities—white and black—will be enslaved to anarchy and injustice.

The third aspect is capitalism. Osterweil claims that capitalism, like the police force, is only beneficial to the powerful and oppresses the poor and marginalized. Osterweil says that organization is good and “revolutionaries love organization” (p. 123), but capitalism steals the spotlight from rioters and looters by calling them chaotic. In short, Osterweil believes capitalism is too competitive for the poor and marginalized. “[A]s long as they [capitalists] measure their success by their ability to direct, to dictate, to marshal, and to focus, they will never be able to achieve the liberation they seek. They must allow the real movement [looting/rioting] to change them, or they can only live to see themselves become its enemy” (p. 148). However, according to the Hoover Institute, it is clear that over the last three decades, capitalism has not only made the rich richer but the poor as well. For example, the poverty level in the United States fell from 31 percent in the 1940s to only 2 percent by the 1980s. While these number have fluctuated over the years due to various external circumstances, the benefits and freedom of capitalism remain.

The fourth aspect is Americans’ common understanding of the civil rights movement. The chapter entitled “No Such Thing as Nonviolence” argues that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was only verbally against violence and looting. Osterweil says, “Rioting and looting were not the accidental offshoots of the Black Freedom movement, not some ‘opportunistic’ or ‘tragic’ consequence of the civil rights struggle. Instead, they formed a central part of the movement’s power and effectiveness…” (p. 152). Osterweil says violence (looting) is the answer to solve unresolved civil rights issues because it is the one thing that white patriarchal supremacists fear. Beyond the blatant absurdity of thinking that only “whites” fear looting, Dr. King’s words clearly and poetically articulate the moral principles of behaving honorably and peaceably: “Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” Dr. King not only advocated nonviolence with his words but with his actions. All of the civil protests and demonstrations he led were nonviolent.

Are Emotions More Important than Moral Principles?

Osterweil asserts two conclusions in defense of looting. First, authority, boundaries, and order do not equal freedom or joy. “The experience of pleasure, joy, and freedom in the midst of a riot, an experience we almost never have in these city streets where we are exploited, controlled, and dominated, is a force that transforms rioters, sometimes forever: the experience of such freedom can be unforgettable” (p. 206). Second, Osterweil concludes that you cannot be a victim if you are not black or a minority group; being white equals having power. “White supremacist forces always play the victim to justify their ongoing anti-Black oppression” (p. 207).

Osterweil’s defense of looting is emotionally compelling. There have indeed been corrupt systems and institutions that have preyed on and marginalized the vulnerable. Slavery did exist in America and around the world, racism and segregation were prevalent in our nation, and there have been unjust uses of police force. But should we respond to past or present injustice by perpetrating more injustice?

Osterweil says that capitalism destroys opportunities for minorities and is systematically racist, but this book was only published thanks to capitalism. Unironically, Osterweil also suggests that white men are the oppressors of our nation and inherently universally racist; however, Osterweil identifies as a transgender woman, meaning Vicky—originally Willie—is a biologically white male.

The Christian response to In Defense of Looting should be nuanced but resolute. While it is true that we as a society must continue to denounce actual racism in all its forms and work towards rectifying injustice and pursuing racial reconciliation, we must never abandon biblical principles in order to appease agendas that are centered around identity politics and emotional appeals. Osterweil believes that looting “liberates” societies, and individuals deserve free money, free housing, and free education and should not be oppressed by order, boundaries, or authority. However, Christians must remember that boundaries and limitations are essential to maintaining freedom. Psalm 15:6 reminds us, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Scripture has clearly said that, “You shall not steal…you shall not covet your neighbor’s house…or anything that is your neighbors” (Exodus 20:15 and 17).

We are called to find contentment in the blessings that God has given us and not seek to steal or fixate on the blessings given to others. Liberty is not locked away to be looted; rather, it is maintained through responsibility, respect, and building relationships.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of November 1)

by Family Research Council

November 6, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Big Tech: ‘The Single Greatest Threat To Free Speech in America’

In the recent Senate hearing addressing Big Tech CEOs, it was clear that there is one thing both parties agree on, and that’s reining in Big Tech. They may have different motives, but Republicans and Democrats share a distrust of America’s social media moguls.

2. Update: In Philly, Coordinated Terrorism Becomes Reality

In Philadelphia, the city council’s $33 million in police cuts has proven to be an example of what not to do. The city of so-called Brotherly Love is now seeing the Left’s rally cry for what it truly is: dangerous to communities and deadly to the economy.

3. Blog: After Election Day Is Over, Christians Must Continue Engaging the Culture

No matter what the results of this election may bring, Christians cannot “check out” and take a vacation from political engagement. As Christians, we must have a long-term perspective. Our engagement in the public square does not start and stop based on election cycles.

4. Blog: Supreme Court Takes a Look at Religious Liberty for Adoption Providers in Fulton Case

Recently, the Supreme Court heard telephonic oral arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that concerns the right of religious foster care agencies to speak and act consistently with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

5. Washington WatchKen Blackwell says both sides have an interest in proving that this was a fair & honest process

Ken Blackwell, FRC’s Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance and Chairman of the Board for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, joined Tony Perkins to discuss what was happening in the battleground states.

6. Washington Watch: Franklin Graham insists that voting for a candidate means signing on to their party platform too

Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse, joined Tony Perkins to discuss Samaritan Purse’s relief efforts in Louisiana, and his thoughts on an election offering two polar-opposite visions for America.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Prayer Call

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Michele Bachmann and Jack Hibbs to a special time of prayer, to seek—above all—the Lord’s provision for our nation.

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