Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Planet with Earth-like atmosphere discovered

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by Anne Collins of the University Herald, April 7, 2017 (links in original):

For the first time, astronomers have discovered atmosphere around a planet that is similar to Earth that could support water. They studied the planet called GJ 1132b, which is 1.4-times the size of Earth. It lies 39 light years away.

The study was published in the Astronomical Journal. The so called super-Earth is cloaked in a thick layer of gasses. Researchers suspect it is either water, methane or a mixture of both.

The discovery of the planet has been hailed as an important step forward in detecting life beyond our Solar System. However, it is unlikely that the planet is habitable because it has the surface temperature of 370C.

BBC reported, Dr. John Southworth, lead author from Keele University, said the hottest temperature that life has been able to survive on Earth is 120C, which is far cooler compared to GJ 1132b. It was first discovered in 2015 and lies in the Vela constellation in the southern hemisphere.

GJ 1132b has a similar size to Earth, but the star it orbits is much smaller, cooler and dimmer than our Sun. The researchers were able to study the planet using the GROND imager telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, News.com.au reported. They watched how it blocked some of the light of its host star as it passed in front of it.

If the planet has different molecules in its atmosphere, it clearly absorbs light in different ways. It allowed the scientists to look for chemical signatures when the world transits its star. The researcher's observation of planet GJ 1132b suggests that it has a thick atmosphere that contains either steam and/or methane.

Dr. Southworth said one possibility is that it is a water world that has an atmosphere of hot steam. Researchers said it is unlikely that any life-forms could survive on the planet but the discovery of its atmosphere is encouraging them to hunt for extraterrestrial life. There are many planets in the Universe that are around low mass stars that can possibly have atmospheres, which makes it much more likely that one might have life.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Proposed Flemish law to ban ritual slaughter attracts criticism from Jews and Muslims

Once again, modern secular "multiculturalism" tries to force itself upon those with strong religious views and long-held practices; it's okay to slaughter future generations of unborn Belgian babies and impose euthanasia upon elderly and disabled Belgians, but slaughtering animals as part of long-held religious beliefs and practices isn't "civilized." As reported by Reuters, March 30, 2017:

The Muslim and Jewish communities in Flanders have criticized a proposal by the Belgian region to ban the unstunned slaughter of small animals, which they say would contravene their rules for ritual killing.

Under the draft law, animals like sheep and poultry will have to be stunned electrically before being killed, which most animal rights campaigners say is more humane than the Islamic halal and Jewish kosher rituals. Both require that butchers swiftly slaughter the animal by slitting its throat and draining the blood.

"Unstunned slaughter is outdated," Ben Weyts, regional minister of animal welfare, said in a statement. "In a civilized society, it is our damn duty to avoid animal suffering where possible."

The bill has broad support in the predominantly Catholic region, and the opposition from Flanders' religious minorities illustrates the difficulties facing some European countries as they struggle to integrate immigrant populations.

The issue could play with a wider audience, including right-wing politicians and animal rights campaigners, who generally support the legislation.

As stunning larger animals is not possible without also fatally wounding them, the proposed law requires animals such as cattle be stunned immediately after their throats are cut if slaughtered in a ritual manner.

Belgium's Muslim community said its religious council has previously expressed its opposition to stunned slaughter and there had been no change in its stance since then.

"Muslims are worried about whether they can eat halal food… in conformity with their religious rites and beliefs," the Belgian Muslim Executive said.

The Flemish Jewish community said it was studying the proposal and that stunned slaughter was not in line with Jewish religious laws.

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis said, “We are deeply disappointed by the decision in the Flemish Parliament which ignores the needs and rights of religious communities as well as a significant body of scientific opinion. We are seeking urgent talks with the Flemish authorities and will work with the local Jewish community to reverse this decision as soon as possible.”

While the proposed law would only apply to the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north of Belgium, other Belgian regions are planning similar moves.

Countries including Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand already prohibit unstunned slaughter.

Vatican and Rome's Jewish museum team up to host menorah exhibit

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25)

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3

As reported by Reuters, February 20, 2017:

The Vatican and Rome's Jewish museum will jointly host an unprecedented exhibition on the menorah, the ancient symbol of Judaism, and try to put to rest legends on the fate of one candelabra missing for 15 centuries.

The May 15 – July 23 exhibition, which Vatican and Jewish officials opened on Monday, will be held simultaneously at St. Peter's Square and the Rome synagogue complex.

The Magdala Stone (Photo: Reuters)

It will include about 130 menorahs or depictions of them in paintings, ancient gravestones and sculptures, and medieval and Renaissance illustrations and manuscripts.

Nearly 20 world museums, including the Louvre and London's National Gallery, have contributed pieces.

"It will be significant from both the religious as well as the historical aspects," said Barbara Jatta, who last month became the first woman to head the Vatican Museums.

But the absolute star of the show—the solid gold menorah taken as a trophy by the Romans when they destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, will not be there. Its fate has been a mystery for 1,500 years and the temple vessel has become the stuff of legends.

The Arch of Titus

Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Titus, a Roman general who became emperor nine years later. A relief on his victory arch in Rome, which still stands, shows the Jerusalem menorah and other war trophies being carried in a parade.

Most historians believe the Jerusalem menorah was lost in the Vandals' Sack of Rome in 455. But legends have persisted that it was thrown in the Tiber River and is still there, that it was buried in a cave or that it is hidden in the Vatican.

"A lot of people will be disappointed to discover that these urban legends are not true," said Rome's chief Rabbi Ricardo Di Segni.

The exhibition will, however, contain what may be the next best thing—the Magdala Stone. It was found in 2009 in an archaeological dig that uncovered an ancient synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

It shows a seven-branched menorah, similar to the one depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome, and is believed to have been carved by an artist who saw the missing Jerusalem menorah in the temple before the Romans destroyed it.

Catholic and Jewish officials said the exhibition, called Menorah—Cult, History and Myth, was another sign of radically improved inter-religious relations since 1965, when the Second Vatican Council repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus.
See also my posts 50 years ago: Pope Paul VI promulgates Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) (October 28, 2015) and 30 years ago: Pope John Paul II visits Rome's Great Synagogue (April 14, 2016).

More descendants of "lost tribe" from India arrive in Israel

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5

As reported by Gabi Neuman of Ynet News, February 23, 2017 (links in original):

Over the weekend, two groups of immigrants from Mizoram in northeast India arrived in Israel. They entered Ben Gurion Airport singing and dancing as they were warmly welcomed by family members they had not seen for many years.

With tears in their eyes, about a hundred new immigrants from the tribe of "Bnei Menashe" excitedly clutched their blue Israeli Identification cards to their chests, and spoke of a two-thousand-year-old dream coming to fruition. Shlomit tearfully hugged her sister who she hadn't seen in more than twenty years, and Sarah said, "I tried to get here for so long ... now we're finally here. It's so wonderful."

After a long hiatus, Israel has renewed the "Bnei Menashe" operation—a community belonging to the so-called "lost tribes." As soon as they landed at Ben Gurion Airport, they rushed to say the Shehecheyanu prayer of thanksgiving and received an Israeli identification card issued to them.

"It's a commandment for every Jew to live in Israel, so I'm fulfilling my duty," Leon, one of the immigrants, told Ynet. Vichy Freund, one of the volunteers who took part in the operation, said that "people like to talk about the American Dream, and here we see the culmination of the Israeli dream which is based on tradition; on spiritual things and less on physical things."

In Israel, there are more than three thousand members of the tribe, and they will be joined by another 700 this year. "We are calling it, 'Operation Menashe 2017,'" said Rabbi Michael Freund, CEO of Shavei Israel Organization. "This is the first wave of the 700, who with God's help, we intend to bring in 2017."

According to Freund, "7,000 Bnei Menashe were left behind, in India, and everyone wants to come here and reunite with their families. In the coming years, we will bring all of them because this is their rightful place."

The immigrants made their way out of the airport toward their new (and temporary) homes in the absorption center in Kfar Hasidim, where they are set to complete the conversion process—and then, they will move to upper Nazareth.

"Bnei Menashe" identify themselves as descendants of the Jewish people. They are part of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes from Mizoram, Assam and Manipur in Northeastern India, on the border with Myanmar Burma.

According to tradition transmitted from generation to generation, these are the descendants of the tribe of Manasseh—one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel at the end of the First Temple period.

Their numbers in these areas is currently estimated at approximately 7,000.
As reported by Ynet News, March 30, 2017:

The Bnei Menashe community throughout the remote northeastern Indian state of Manipur today began preparing for Passover—including by baking matzah, the holiday’s traditional unleavened bread—at the Shavei Israel Hebrew Center in Churachandpur.

“The experience of seeing the entire community kneading, rolling, and then baking the dough—all as the timer calls out the minutes—is amazing,” said Ohaliav Haokip, 31, of Churachandpur. “Everyone present can feel the pressure of baking the matzah in time—it’s reminiscent of Biblical times, and our forefathers’ hurrying to flee Egypt… I hope for a very special Seder this year—and next year in Jerusalem!”

The Bnei Menashe are believed to be descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire. So far, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel, including more than 1,100 in the past four years and an additional 102 who arrived in Israel from Mizoram, India, in February. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India.

“Passover symbolizes the Jewish people’s deliverance and it is a festival that resonates deeply for the Bnei Menashe,” said the founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, Michael Freund. His nonprofit organization explains its “aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.”

“In the far-flung regions of northeastern India, thousands of Bnei Menashe will sit down on Passover eve to conduct the traditional Seder, which embodies the hope they have been nurturing for generations: to make aliyah and return to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.”

Down through the generations and into the last century, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Biblical Judaism and marked Passover with a number of rituals, which included the removal of any bread from their homes and refraining from its consumption during the holiday as well as offering the Passover sacrifice.

In addition, each village priest would recite a series of ancient prayers, such as “Miriam’s Song,” which echoed the Biblical account of the Exodus and its aftermath, describing how their ancestors—the Bnei Menashe—were redeemed from slavery in Egypt, crossed the Sea of Reeds and were guided by a pillar of fire and clouds of glory until they reached the Promised Land.

In recent decades, the Bnei Menashe have embraced contemporary Judaism and adopted its practices.
See my post Jews from "lost tribe" move from India to Israel (December 24, 2012).

Israel allows the immigration of nine Venezuelan converts to Judaism

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5

Even if these people are only converts to Judaism, it's interesting to see that Jews are coming to Israel from all over the world, including Venezuela. As reported by Associated Press, March 17, 2017:

It's not quite Moses' 40 years in the desert, but for nine struggling Venezuelan converts to Judaism, their torturous journey to a better life in the Promised Land finally brought them to Israel on Thursday.

They paused inside the arrivals hall of Israel's international airport for a prayer before being whisked into a taxi and taken to an immigration absorption center.

Israel's Law of Return gives Jews the world over the right to settle in the Jewish state. But the Venezuelan converts were denied entry late last year over concerns they weren't involved enough with Venezuela's Jewish community and were looking to take advantage of Israel's immigration policies to flee the troubled South American nation.

Israeli authorities reversed that decision in January, citing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

As part of a face-saving deal between Israel's Interior Ministry, headed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish minister, and the liberal Jewish movement to which the nine belonged, the converts were made to undergo a repeat conversion and to join an "established religious community" for several months in Israel before being eligible for citizenship.

The group marked its conversion— for the second time—with a ritual immersion last Sunday at a synagogue in Colombia before setting off for Israel.

"May you find your heart's desire, healing and peace with all of your brothers in Israel – those who are traveling with you and those you've yet to meet," Rabbi Juan Mejia said as leaned his forehead against Jackson Marrone's, offering him a blessing for a safe journey. Shouts of "mazel tov" echoed off the sanctuary's high ceiling.

The protracted fight over the "Venezuelan Nine" underscores the fierce debate in a divided Israeli society over who is a Jew and how a religion that doesn't proselytize like Christianity or Islam grapples with an increasing number of converts, especially from Latin America, who have found their way to Judaism outside traditional paths like marrying someone of the faith.

It's also taken its toll on the nine Venezuelans themselves.

For years, Franklin Perez has lived a Jewish life. He wears a skullcap, gave Hebrew names to his children and traveled three hours by road to Caracas to buy kosher meat—when he could find it.

His embrace of Judaism began when he moved to the Venezuelan city of Maracay in 2004 after losing his job as a philosophy professor during a political shakeup at the university where he taught. He fell in with a group of messianic Jews who combine Christianity with Jewish traditions.

Perez's curiosity had already been piqued during his childhood by a Jewish great-grandmother in an otherwise Roman Catholic family, and he led the group in study of religious texts.

Over time, a hardcore nucleus was drawn to bedrock Judaism itself. In 2011 they found Mejia, a Spanish-speaking Conservative movement rabbi who lives in Oklahoma but returns a few times a year to his native Colombia. He led them in six hours of study online each week, and after a year later they traveled to study with him for a week in Santa Marta, Colombia.

They returned in 2014, and under the supervision of a religious court of three rabbis took a dip in the warm waters of the Caribbean to complete their conversion.

"This is not a new thing, this is not a fad," Mejia said. "These people didn't decide yesterday, 'Oh, Venezuela is going down the drain, let's find someplace to go.' Everything Jewish that they have, they built, which gives you a sense of ownership and pride that is not only commendable but worthy of imitation."

Leaders of the cloistered Jewish community in Caracas were doubtful of their motives because they had never had contact with the group, even though the nine had been quietly welcomed by a dying community of Orthodox Jews in the nearby city of Valencia, which needed them for the 10-male quorum required for public worship in a synagogue.

According to an official in Israel familiar with the case, there was evidence suggesting some of the applicants converted to Judaism to take advantage of Israeli social benefits, including health insurance. The official agreed to discuss the case only if not quoted by name because he was not authorized to discuss the converts' personal status.

But after a stormy parliamentary committee hearing in Israel, immigration officials said the nine could come.

Perez freely admits that if it weren't for Venezuela's collapse they would have never looked to leave. He is resettling his family in a foreign country with just $350 and seven suitcases of belongings -- all that's left after Venezuela's economic slide that brought triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine.

Another member of the group, Nadine Garcia, couldn't find chemotherapy drugs for her cancer treatment. And the home of Perez's in-laws, where his family had been living, was recently broken into by thieves who walked off with cheese and rice from the refrigerator.

The Jewish Agency, a nonprofit organization that works with the Israeli government on immigration, paid for their flights and housing. They'll temporarily live in the immigration absorption center while they perfect their Hebrew.

"I don't imagine ever going back, not even to visit," said Perez. "The problem isn't economic. It's social, moral and ethical. For Venezuelans to rebuild their lost values it's going to take at least 50 years."

Members of Venezuela's aging Jewish community have been fleeing to places like Miami and Panama for years. From a peak of 20,000 Jews in Venezuela two decades ago, around 8,000 remain today.

In addition to lamenting the country's economic woes, many Jews complain of facing virulent anti-Semitism since the late President Hugo Chavez broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009.

Around 50 gathered recently at a community center in Caracas to learn how they could move to Spain and Portugal under new laws in those countries granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century.

Mejia said he thinks the wariness of Israeli authorities over the nine stemmed less from a fear of a mass exodus of starving Venezuelans and more from discomfort with the idea that in the age of the internet and spiritual shopping many people are being drawn to one of the world's oldest living faiths.

"We're not used to this amount of popularity," quipped Mejia, who embarked on his own path to Jewish conversion while studying philosophy in Colombia.

But he said ultimately it is Israel's mission as a Jewish state to provide refuge for Jews in danger – born ones and converts alike.

"I cannot save everyone, but these are my students and I'm very relieved that so many people have come together to do a little bit," Mejia said.
In addition to the main point about the immigration, I noticed a few other interesting aspects to this story. One is that Franklin Perez, who's from a Roman Catholic background, became involved with Messianic Jews, which eventually led him to convert to Judaism rather than coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It's also worth noting that Mr. Perez says that the root of Venezuela's current woes is "social, moral and ethical" rather than economic. In relation to that, I think it's also worth noting that Venezuela, a country that should be much better off economically than it now is, severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009. The decline of Venezuela continues a pattern of decline for countries that have been foolish enough to sever relations with Israel--a pattern which, to use a favourite word of Joel Rosenberg's, is "curious."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

40 years ago: California Court of Appeals rules in favour of Moonies against parents

On April 11, 1977, a three-judge panel of the California State Court of Appeals ordered that five young adults be freed from the custody of their parents, who had opposed their membership in Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The parents had charged that their children had been coerced into joining the cult, and had shown emotional and mental deterioration. The parents sough to "deprogam" their children from the Moonies' influence, while the cult's lawyers opposed the move on grounds of religious freedom. The appellate judges did not accept a lower court's ruling on March 24 that parents retained some rights over adult children, and ruled that custody could be granted only if a person was incompetent and unable to care for himself.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Readings from the Qur'an are held at the Vatican for the first time ever

As reported by EEUU News, March 15, 2017:

On Sunday for the first time ever the readings from Quran will be heard at the Vatican. This move was initiated by the Pope Francis in order to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

During his visit last week to Jordan Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, Pope Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Peres’s spokesperson has announced in Times of Israel that Abbas, Peres, and Pope Francis will be joined by Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders.

According to the officials, these evening prayers would be a “pause in politics” and have no political aim behind it other than the desire to bring peace and respect to the Israeli-Palestinian relations, states the Associated Press.

The Vatican will broadcast the event worldwide through the official website.

However, Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the custodian of Catholic Church property in the Holy Land has announced that people should keep their expectations low when it comes to this event.

[No-one should think] “peace will suddenly break out on Monday, or that peace is any closer,” he said to AP.

The Vatican has also announced that on Friday, the Pope also held a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and both leaders discussed possible ways of promoting peace and stability in Asia.

Churches in southern Wisconsin on full alert against possible criminal threat

The enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ and his people can be found anywhere; as reported by Associated Press, April 9, 2017:

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) _ Authorities are stepping up patrols around southern Wisconsin churches as a precaution as they search for a man suspected of stealing firearms from a gun store after threatening to carry out an unspecified attack.

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office says 32-year-old Joseph Jakubowski expressed anti-religious views in a 161-page manifesto he sent to the White House. The sheriff’s office and Janesville police are increasing patrols near churches Sunday, although investigators say there is no specific threat.

Extra patrols also were planned around churches in Sun Prairie, about 48 miles north of Janesville, after a man entered Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Thursday and asked about church services.

Jakubowski is accused of taking handguns and rifles from a gun shop Tuesday night in Janesville, about 70 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

Stone finger possibly from Bronze Age Egyptian statue removed from Temple Mount in Jerusalem

As reported by Ilan Ben Zion of The Times of Israel, April 9, 2017 (links in original):

Fragment of a stone finger from what archaeologists suspect may have been an Egyptian statue, found in the fill removed from the Temple Mount. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

In an statement timed just ahead of Passover, the Temple Mount Sifting Project said Sunday it had found a stone finger that may have belonged to a Bronze Age Egyptian statue, but conceded it wasn’t sure.

The unusual announcement may have been an attempt to keep up pressure on Israeli authorities to resolve a funding crisis that has brought its operations to a halt. The project, which has been in dire straits in recent weeks after its main donor, the City of David Foundation, pulled its funding, made the announcement of an Egyptian find ahead of the Jewish festival marking the Biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Israeli archaeology organizations often peg Egypt-related discoveries to the holiday because of its association with ancient Egypt.

“It was found a while ago,” the project’s director, Gabriel Barkay, told The Times of Israel over the phone, but declined to specify when. He said the sifting project ceased operations two weeks ago.

The organization headed by Barkay sorts through soil removed by the Palestinians from the Temple Mount during unsupervised construction between 1996 and 1999.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project issued a statement last Monday announcing the halt of operations due to a “lack of funding and differences between the directors of the Sifting Project and the City of David Foundation.” The Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday that ongoing funding had been secured, but officials at the project said on Sunday that the crisis had not yet been resolved.

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is considered the holiest in Judaism, the site of two Jewish temples, and is also the third-holiest site to Muslims. The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the institution overseeing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, excavated a section of the Temple Mount for the building of a subterranean mosque in an area known as Solomon’s Stables in the late 1990s. Tens of thousands of tons of dirt — roughly 400 truckloads — were excavated by heavy machinery, without the supervision of archaeologists, and dumped outside the Old City.

The piles of earth sat in the Kidron Valley for over four years until the project commenced in 2004. Since commencing operations, the Temple Mount Sifting Project said, it’s gone through around 70 percent of the soil removed from the site.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project said in a statement that the finger found in the fill “probably originated in Egypt” but couldn’t be accurately dated, and was “currently being examined by the leading experts in the field.”

Barkay told The Times of Israel that he was the only one currently studying the artifact and that it would be sent to “ancient art researchers and Egyptian researchers and others” at some point in the near future.

“It’s still at an early stage. Research hasn’t been completed,” he said.

In the statement released by the Temple Mount Sifting Project to the press, Barkay was more authoritative in his assertions about the artifact than he was in conversation on the phone.

“This is a fragment of a life-size statue, which was made in Egypt and imported to Canaan,” the statement said. “We clearly notice that this is part of a pinky finger measuring 3.5 centimeters (1.4 inches), from a man’s hand, which includes also a fingernail. The statue is made of a hard black stone originating in Egypt. The statue most likely represented a figure of a god or king. The black stone from which the statue is manufactured testifies to its Egyptian origin.”

He posited that the statue to which the finger belonged dated to the Late Bronze Age, around 3,500 years ago, based on the style, but conceded that “We cannot exclude the possibility that the statue is from a later period.”

“If it is indeed Egyptian, and apparently it is, the Egyptian objects from Jerusalem in ancient periods are very few.” He said they could be counted on one hand.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project’s find was presented as a buttress for its main message, which was that it was in dire need of funds to continue its work, and that despite assertions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, its financial crisis hasn’t been resolved.

Contrary to reports published last week, it said, “the sifting was not resumed, but a meeting will be scheduled for after the Passover holiday to resolve the crisis in order to resume the sifting.

“As we mentioned in our first announcement, the main problem we are facing is finding the funding for the research and publication of the many artifacts that we have recovered. The sifting cannot be resumed until this is solved,” it said.

Gilt mosaic tiles that once decorated the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount (photo credit: Courtesy of The Temple Mount Sifting Project)

Over a quarter of a million volunteers from around the world have taken part in hosing down bucketfuls of soil from the Temple Mount and picking out minute objects since the project began.

While critics note that the artifacts found in the fill were not found in situ, and the mounds were left unattended for several years before being moved once again to the Sifting Project’s site at the base of Mount Scopus, Barkay insists the finds are unquestionably connected to the Temple Mount and are of scientific importance in answering questions about the site.

Although the Temple Mount Sifting Project styles itself as “the first archaeological material ever to be researched from within the Temple Mount itself,” British archaeologist R.W. Hamilton conducted work atop the site in the 1930s on behalf of the Mandate’s Department of Antiquities.

Police in Jerusalem arrest activists planning a sacrifice on the Temple Mount

It's only a matter of time before the Temple is rebuilt and sacrifices are resumed. As reported by Jacob Magid of The Times of Israel, April 9, 2017 (links in original):

Priests recite biblical priestly blessing following the demonstration Passover sacrifice, Jerusalem, April 6, 2017 (Alexander Fulbright/Times of Israel)

Police on Sunday arrested several Jewish activists, including five minors, who they said were suspected of intending to carry out a Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount.

After security forces allowed a rehearsal sheep slaughtering to take place in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City on Thursday, it was widely believed that they would not let a “real” ceremony move forward at the contested Jerusalem site ahead the Passover festival Monday night.

In addition to arresting the activists, police raided the home of the parents of the head of a far-right group called Returning to the Mount, Raphael Morris.

A lawyer for some of the activists, Itamar Ben Gvir, decried the “silencing arrests” and called on police to allow “freedom of worship.”

A sheep that was slaughtered as part of a demonstration about the Passover sacrifice in Jerusalem's Old City on April 6, 2017. (Alexander Fulbright/Times of Israel)

He told Army Radio that “the police were acting disproportionately”
and that “Israel is losing its democratic character.”

Ben Gvir has a history of representing far-right clientele, including many perpetrators of attacks against Palestinian people and property.

“It is shameful that the State of Israel acts with an iron fist against people who simply want to renew one of the Torah’s most important commandments,” Morris said in a statement.

Approximately 200 people, including Likud MK Yehudah Glick, were in attendance for the rehearsal butchering that took place next to the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City on Thursday evening.

After the sheep was slaughtered in a lavish ceremony that included the blasting of silver trumpets by priests in white garments, the animal’s blood was sprinkled on a model altar. It was then flayed, roasted and eaten by the participants.

It was allegedly the first time in some 2,000 years that such a reenactment had taken place within the Old City walls.

For over a decade the group has held a reenactment of the Passover offering outside the Old City.

Activists annually request permission to fulfill the ritual on or near the Temple Mount, where such sacrifices were carried out at the time such sanctuaries stood. But each year they are refused by both police and courts, which say it could cause unrest if it is held at one of the most contested sites in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The flashpoint Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, revered by Jews as the site where the biblical Temples stood.

Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary and believe it is the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is the third holiest site in Islam and houses the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine.

Israel captured the Mount in the 1967 war, but allowed the Waqf Muslim trust to continue to administer it.

The Palestinians have frequently charged that Israel is trying to change longstanding understandings, in place since 1967, under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at, the site. Israel denies any such intention.
Here's the article mentioned in the link above, as reported by The Times of Israel, April 6, 2017:

With priests blowing silver trumpets, a group of religious Jews slaughtered a sheep on Thursday in Jerusalem’s Old City to demonstrate the traditional paschal sacrifice, the first time such a reenactment has been held inside the city walls in 2,000 years.

The event was organized by Temple Mount activists and supervised by police and the state veterinarian service. Approximately 200 men, women and children attended the event, including MK Yehuda Glick.

The sheep was butchered in the main square of the Jewish Quarter, next to the Hurva Synagogue.

In accordance with the ancient rites, the blood was sprinkled on a model altar temporarily erected for the purpose. The sheep was then flayed, roasted and eaten by the participants.

Cohens, members of the priestly class, wearing specially made white garments, blew silver trumpets and sang psalms as the ritual was taking place. They also recited the biblical priestly blessing.

The group said it will conduct an actual sacrifice on Monday, the day before the Passover holiday, in order to fulfill a religious commandment requiring Jews to make an animal sacrifice for the festival.

However, it is unlikely that police will allow them to do so.

For over a decade the group has held a reenactment of the ritual slaughter of the Passover offering, a sheep or goat sacrifice, outside the Old City.

Each year the activists request permission to do it on or near the Temple Mount, where ritual sacrifices were carried out at the time of the temple. And each year they have been refused by police and the courts, which say it could cause unrest if it is held on or near the Temple Mount, the most hotly contested site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
These activists wren't the only ones arrested; as reported by Mr. Winer in The Times of Israel, April 10, 2017:

Police said Monday they had detained for questioning a Jewish man who was apprehended in the Old City of Jerusalem as he prepared to sacrifice a kid goat for the Passover holiday.

The man was stopped as he carried the goat along a street. He was intercepted by police and the goat was transferred to the Agriculture Ministry’s veterinary service.

Police stressed that they will continue to act against anyone who tries to disturb the peace and public safety over the holiday, which begins Monday night and lasts for seven days.

On Sunday, police arrested several Jewish activists, including five minors, who they said were suspected of intending to carry out a separate Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount.

Last week, security forces allowed a rehearsal sheep sacrifice to take place in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

Approximately 200 people, including Likud MK Yehudah Glick, were in attendance for the practice slaughtering that took place next to the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City on Thursday evening.

Activists annually request permission to fulfill the ritual, commanded in the Bible, on or near the Temple Mount, where such sacrifices were carried out in ancient times, when the sanctuaries stood at the site. Police and courts have refused to okay the practice on the grounds that it could cause unrest if it is held at one of the most contested sites in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The flashpoint Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
In 2016, seven Jewish men were arrested in a plot to sacrifice goats on the Temple Mount for Passover; as reported by Judah Ari Gross of The Times of Israel, April 22, 2016 (link in original):

Police detained seven Jewish men suspected of planning to sacrifice goats in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday in honor of the Passover holiday, which begins at sundown.

Two of the young men were picked up on Friday morning on their way to carry out the sacrifice, but were stopped by police before they could do so. Upon their arrest, police spotted a second goat that had been left unattended, which they later connected to a third suspect who was subsequently detained.

Just a few hours later, officers picked up another four people — all minors — who had a third goat they intended to sacrifice, police said.

The charge against the seven suspects was “disturbing the peace,” a police spokesperson said.

In ancient times, Jews used to sacrifice a lamb on Passover Eve and eat it as part of the traditional seder meal. Nearly all Jews forego this ritual today. However, members of the Samaritan religion still carry out this practice.

The three goats confiscated by police on Friday were unharmed and have been handed over to the municipality’s animal control department, the police said.

Authorities had banned several right-wing activists from entering Jerusalem during the Passover holiday, which begins Friday evening, citing information they intended to carry out sacrificial rituals on the Temple Mount.

“The police are working and will continue to work with determination against any attempt to disturb the public peace and security, without favoritism,” the Jerusalem police said.

“We expect the public discourse during the holiday period to display tolerance and mutual respect,” the spokesperson added.

Two members of a group called “Return to the Temple Mount,” which advocates the construction of a Third Temple, have been barred from the city for the duration of the holiday. Members of the group had reportedly planned to carry out a ritual slaughter of a sacrificial animal at the site, as was customary on Passover in ancient times.

Jewish visits to the Temple Mount are allowed by agreement between Israel and the Jordanian custodians of the site, but worship at the site is forbidden.

The Temple Mount has been at the center of months-long tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, who fear a growing Jewish presence at the site that is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israel is concerned that Jewish visits during the week-long Passover holiday to the Mount could trigger further Palestinian unrest.

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich on Sunday announced a renewed open-ended ban on Israeli lawmakers visiting the flashpoint location.

The directive was issued in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Alsheich wrote: “In light of attempts by many extremist elements from both sides to create provocations… I surmise that at this time, ascent to the Temple Mount by Knesset members is likely to result in an exacerbation of tensions and an escalation of incidents that would cause a real endangerment of the security of the state.”

Netanyahu warned last week that “extremist elements” were attempting to sow unrest in Jerusalem and other areas in efforts to renew violence between Israelis and Palestinians ahead of the Passover holiday.

The prime minister said security forces would increase their readiness to counter those attempts amid a wave of Palestinian attacks that began more than six months ago and has lately been ebbing.

Israel also closed off the West Bank at midnight on Thursday night, amid fears of attacks by the Hamas terror group during the holiday. The Islamist terror organization was behind Monday’s suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus that wounded 20 people. The closure is to last until Saturday night.

Suspected child molester in Jewish religious school arrested in Jerusalem

It isn't only the Roman Catholic Church that has this problem. As reported by Stuart Winer of The Times of Israel, April 10, 2017:

Police said Monday they had arrested a man on suspicion of sexually assaulting multiple minors while he worked as a housekeeper in a religious academy for children in Jerusalem.

The man was arrested Sunday after investigators were able to track down some victims who spoke about the assaults, police said. Two victims aged 17 and two more between the ages of 10 and 12 have testified so far.

The man, 37, is suspected of indecent acts, sodomy of minors and threatening his victims.

The suspect, who was not named in the police statement, is believed to have assaulted minors attending the yeshiva where he worked as well as others in the neighborhood.

Police suspect the man invited pupils to a storage room near the yeshiva where he would sexually assault them. On several occasions he allegedly assaulted more than one victim at a time and would pay or threaten his victims to keep silent about the incidents.

Police said the man had access to the children due to his position as a housekeeper at the academy. The suspect has refused to cooperate with the investigation.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended his arrest until Wednesday.

Friday, April 7, 2017

10 years ago: The death of Johnny Hart

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15

On April 7, 2007, Johnny Hart went to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ at the age of 76. Mr. Hart created the comic strip B.C. in 1958 and co-created--with Brant Parker--the comic strip The Wizard of Id in 1964, both of which were enjoyed by this blogger.

Mr. Hart developed strong Christian convictions from the mid-1980s on, and increasingly wove Christian themes into his work. Some newspapers, which had no problem publishing comic strips with overtly political content, found Mr. Hart's expression of his Christian views in B.C. to be unacceptable, so in the name of tolerance and liberalism, they practiced censorship, and refused to print some of the B.C. strips. Mr. Hart, however, refused to cower before the god of political correctness.

Mr. Hart was still active when he had a fatal stroke at his drawing table. Fortunately, his work survives him.

75 years ago: Church of Norway clergy resign as civil servants while continuing as pastors

On Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942, bishops and a majority of the Church of Norway's pastors signed and proclaimed The Foundation of the Church: A Confession and a Declaration (Kirkens Grunn: En bekjennelse og en erklæring), in which they resigned as servants of the state, but vowed to continue their congregations as pastors. The declaration culminated a period of increasing frustration of the church with the government since the military forces of Nazi Germany had invaded and occupied Norway in 1940.

The Church of Norway, which was Lutheran and had a history of teaching obedience to the state, tried to get along with the Nazi occupation government, but the Nazis refused to honour their promises to respect Norwegians' freedom of religion or the Church's government and practices. On February 1, 1942, Vidkun Quisling was installed as Minister President of Norway; the country's equivalent of the Nazi Party was the Nasjonal Samling. On the day that Mr. Quisling took office, a mob of his sympathizers invaded Nidaros Cathedral and refused to allow the cathedral's dean to conduct services. The congregation gathered outside to sing "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," and all seven Church of Norway bishops resigned the next day.

Church Primate Eivind Berggrav was arrested shortly after the Easter declaration, and spent some time in Bredtvet concentration camp. The minority of pastors who didn't go along with the Easter declaration were tarred with the label of Quisling, and were not respected by the Norwegian people. The majority of Church of Norway clergy provided an inspiring example to Norwegians at large in resisting a state that was not only illegally and unpopularly occupying the country, but wasn't content to be just the state, but was refusing to respect the church's God-given role as the church. It's also worth noting that persecution by the state authorities produced a period of needed, if brief, independence for a church which under normal conditions was affiliated with the state, which was and is not the will of God. The existence in Europe of state churches, where people are "hatched, matched, and dispatched," has played a major role in that continent's sad drift into secular humanism, which can't stand against militant Islam. Courageous Christian pastors can still be found today, mainly in countries such as India, Myanmar, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and Islamic nations.

For those interested in further reading, a recent book on the Church of Norway's experience during World War II (which inclued helping Jews) is Church Resistance to Nazism in Norway, 1940-1945 by Arne Hassing (2014).


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Beware of the Simplicity Institute

The Simplicity Institute, which appears to include some people who are ostensibly Christians, also seems mostly composed of woolly-headed idealists and hippies who turned off their alarm clocks in the '70s, and get their lunch by squeezing it out of their beards. I agree with them to the extent that it's not necessary to live an affluent lifestyle, but these are the kind people who know little or nothing about economics, and are always talking about distribution of wealth, but not about production of wealth, which is necessary in order for distribution to take place.

They go on about how economic growth is bad for the environment, but don't mention that it's the countries with the most productive economies that have the cleanest environments and healthiest people. Their "Charter of Sufficiency" is a masterpiece of vagueness, with no careful definitions of anything (link in original):

The following ‘Charter of Sufficiency’ is a vision statement for a sufficiency economy, which is intended to provoke thought about the contours of a just and sustainable society. (It is adapted from the ‘Charter of the Deep Future’ found in Chapter Five of Entropia: Life beyond Industrial Civilisation).
_______________________________________

CHARTER OF SUFFICIENCY

Enough, for everyone, forever

We affirm that providing ‘enough, for everyone, forever’ is the defining objective of a just and sustainable economy, which we seek to achieve by working together in free association.

We affirm that everyone should be free to create the meaning of their own lives, while acknowledging that this freedom legitimately extends only so far as others can have the same freedom. Freedom thus implies restraint.

We affirm that an inclusive democracy must not discriminate on such grounds as race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, politics, or faith.

We affirm that generations into the deep future are entitled to the same freedoms as present generations.

We affirm that respecting the deep future requires maintaining a healthy environment.

We affirm that technology can help to protect our environment only if it is governed by an ethics of sufficiency, not an ethics of growth. Efficiency without sufficiency is lost.

We affirm that maintaining a healthy environment requires creating a sufficiency economy that operates within environmental and energy limits.

We affirm that a sufficiency economy means stabilising consumption and population, transitioning to renewable sources of energy, and adapting to a very moderate energy supply.

We affirm that strict limits on material accumulation are required if a sufficiency economy is to maintain a just distribution of resources and avoid corrosive inequalities.

We affirm that property rights are justifiable only to the extent they serve the common good, including the overriding interests of humanitarian and ecological justice.

We affirm that a sufficiency economy depends on a culture that embraces lifestyles of material sufficiency and rejects lifestyles of material affluence.

We affirm that material sufficiency in a free society provides the conditions for an infinite variety of meaningful, happy, and fulfilling lives.


It's hard not to notice that for SI's promotion of "degrowth," its leader are content to live in countries that practice economic growth. Let's see the SI leaders move to countries that practice "degrowth," and I might be more inclined to take them seriously. They talk about voluntary simplicity, but experience shows that if enough people won't go along voluntarily, compulsion will follow. I highly recommend Thomas Dixon's novel Comrades (1909), about a utopian socialist community created off the coast of California that quickly becomes a total disaster. It's similar to Animal Farm , but is much funnier, and is available for free download.

The perceptive reader will notice that SI's homepage positively quotes New Ager Buckminster Fuller, which is par for the course for SI. Other than the Charter of Sufficiency, the only SI publication I've read is Mark A. Burch's report Mindfulness: The Doorway to Simple Living (2012), but that was enough for me to recognize him as a false teacher:

Mindfulness, or Right Mindfulness, is one precept drawn from a set of interdependent precepts called The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. (p. 3)

Formal mindfulness practice consists of sitting meditation with attention focused on one’s breathing, either by counting breaths or by silently witnessing the act of breathing, to the exclusion of all other internal or external distractions...

...Practices that specifically develop stable states of mindful awareness often entail formal meditation or contemplation. In Buddhist Vipassana (mindfulness of breathing) practice, for example, attention is focused on the breath with the intention of slowly developing concentration, cultivating inner stillness and eventually an ever deepening insight into the activities and dynamics of one’s own conscious awareness ...

...Christian “Centering Prayer,” while differing from Buddhist Vipassana in its intention, is nearly indistinguishable in its method. The Buddhist is intent on liberation from suffering and growing in compassion whereas the Christian practitioner of centering prayer is intent on cultivating a state of inner stillness and spiritual receptivity to the action of the Holy Spirit. The Buddhist “anchors” attention on the breath while the Christian anchors it on a “prayer word,” not unlike a mantra, expressing the contemplative’s intention to open themselves to intimacy with God (Keating, 1998). But otherwise, all the physical postures, preparation, attitudes and activities that one brings to the practice are nearly identical.
(pp. 4-5).

The reader will notice that Mr. Burch admits that mindfulness comes from Buddhism, and that Christian "Centering Prayer" is indistinguishable, in practice, from the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. The inevitable conclusion for those who indulge in such practices is that since the experiences are similar regardless of one's religious tradition, they must derive from the same source, leading the practitioner toward universalism. Why is Mr. Burch, a supposed Christian, engaging in and recommending a pagan practice?

Another thing I noticed was that Mr. Burch cites James Lovelock's belief on evolution (on page 21), without mentioning that he was the man who gave us the Gaia hypothesis, which states that the Earth is itself a living being--the natural spiritual result being nature worship. Right under that, Mr. Burch praises Carl Jung as a "great Viennese depth psychologist." Carl Jung is popular with New Agers--especially those who claim to be Christians--but was a man whose "wisdom" came from a "spirit guide," i.e., demon, named Philemon. For more on Carl Jung, see PsychoHeresy: C. G. Jung's Legacy to the Church.

Nigerian "Apostle" Johnson Suleman is embroiled in a sex scandal

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. II Corinthians 11:13

For those of us who clearly remember 1987, it's hard to believe that 30 years ago at this time, the televangelist scandals were underway. Jim Bakker had just been outed by the Charlotte Observer for having sex with employee Jessica Hahn, while Oral Roberts had decreed that if he didn't receive enough money by March 31 to keep his hospital open, he would be "called home." For those, who like this blogger, feel some nostalgia for those days, there are false "prophets" of the New Apostolic Reformation ready to pick up the slack. Johnson Suleman of Auchi, Edo, Nigeria is one such "apostle." According to the website of his Omega Fire Ministries:

God gave His choice servant, Apostle Johnson Suleman a divine mandate to: “wipe out tears, restore people to their destinies by the revelation of the word, the manifestation of power and reality of the Holy Spirit.” He equally told His choice Servant: “Put an end to affliction; I AM SENDING YOU WITH AN OMEGA ANOINTING…”

The OMEGA FIRE MINISTRIES INT. INC. was birthed to restore the joy of men, causing men to manifest destiny, becoming the best God created them to be and frustrating the wickedness of the enemy.

We believe in the fire operation of the Spirit of God that refines, purifies and equally destroys. Our ministry is one that believes in judgment on the wicked. We believe oppressions and demonic manipulations are real, we equally know that more real is the reality and authority of God’s power – it is all-powerful and all-pervading.

As a ministry, we hold as true the belief that all power belongs to God and that the enemy has no scriptural right to manipulate the destinies of believers; It is the right of believers to live a fulfilled life. Hence, this ministry is saddled with the divine mandate to restore the divine rights of believers.

OFM-South-Africa LogoOmega Fire Ministries Int’l was officially inaugurated on the 1st of February 2004 in Auchi, Edo State – Nigeria and is presided by the General of the Prophetic; Apostle Johnson Suleman. The miraculous is a common occurrence in the ministry as God confirms the Mandate given to his servant with infallible proofs. God’s servant Apostle Johnson Suleman is endowed with a rare prophetic insight; A Grace that has confirmed and established several African Leaders.

He speaks as an Oracle Of God on national and global matters as it affects the political, social and economic atmosphere of nations across continents of the world. The Accuracy of his uncommon prophetic analysis and confirmed predictions has earned him a name and fame in various fields of human endeavor. Omega Fire Ministries Int’l is one the fastest growing ministries in Africa and By God’s Grace clocked exactly Ten years on February 1st 2014. With just Ten years of operation our branch network spreads across Europe, America and various parts of Africa. The International Headquarter Church of the Omega Fire Ministries Int’l is located in KM 132, Okene/Abuja Expressway, Auchi, Edo State, Nigeria.
Needless to say, I'm not a believer in the New Apostolic Reformation, and we don't have Old Testament-style "Thus saith the Lord" prophets anymore. In the "here we go again" department, "Apostle" Suleman is now embroiled in a sex scandal. As reported by Ifreke Inyang of the Lagos Daily Post, March 6, 2017:

Senior Pastor of Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, is being accused by one Stephanie Otobo of impregnating and abandoning her.

A letter from Festus Keyamo Chambers dated March 4, 2017 and addressed to the Inspector-General of Police claimed that Stephanie began a romantic relationship with Suleiman in Canada in 2015.

She claimed that the pastor told her he was divorced from his wife and proposed to her, before meeting with her family for introduction, declaring his intention to marry her.

Stephanie also alleged she abandoned her lucrative career, her cars, friends and house in Canada because Suleiman promised to buy her a house in Nigeria.

In another letter dated March 3, 2017 written to Suleiman and also sent to the IGP, her lawyers claimed the cleric was so in love with her, that he had to lick her entire body every time they had sex.

It added that Suleiman invited Stephanie from Canada to Europe, where he made love with her all night after Church programmes.

It is even being alleged that Stephanie was the one sending topic of sermons for the pastor to preach and the songs to be sung.

The letter said the pastor invited Stephanie to his church in Nigeria and begged her to get pregnant for him, as he wanted more male children.

Stephanie who is demanding N500million in damages for the breach of trust, also revealed messier details like Suleiman asking her to bring a friend along for a threesome and to send her nude pictures to him.

Suleiman was also accused of intimidating and harassing Stephanie, after men of the Nigeria Police Force, Monitoring Unit, Kem Salem House, Obalende, Lagos, arrested her inside a banking hall.

Her lawyers gave Suleiman a seven-day ultimatum to meet its demands.

See documents below:

1 2 3 4
"Apostle" Suleman denies the allegations, as reported by Wale Odunsi of the Daily Post, March 6, 2017:

The Omega Fire Ministries has denied that the General Overseer of the church, Apostle Johnson Suleiman has a hand in the arrest and detention of one Miss Stephanie Otobo by the police last Friday, March 3, 2017.

A statement signed by Phrank Shaibu, Communications Manager to Apostle Suleiman also denied that there was a so-called amorous relationship between the said Miss Otobo and the General overseer.

Instead, the church stated that the lady was arrested by operatives acting on a tip off that the lady had repeatedly tried to blackmail the fiery preacher, including demanding N500 million from him, failing which she threatened to expose a purported amorous relationship between her and the Senior Pastor.

The statement of Omega Fire Ministries was in reaction to two letters written by Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo demanding the same N500 million on behalf of the said lady and also accusing Apostle Suleiman of procuring policemen to intimidate and detain his client unlawfully, having earlier promised to marry her.

But Phrank Shaibu said the lawyer was misled into believing that there was an amorous relationship between Apostle Suleiman and the said Miss Otobo, pointing out that the lady was caught up by her own machinations as she was arrested while trying to withdraw money paid into her account by the Church in a sting operation coordinated by the police.

“Unknown to Keyamo, the police was alerted following several attempts by the said lady to blackmail Apostle Suleiman.

“The police also recorded her conversations making the frivolous demand. The highpoint of the drama was her attempt to withdraw money paid into her account at the instance of the police.

“The lawyer should know that his client was arrested by the police with abundance of evidence confirming that she is indeed a serial blackmailer”, he said.

The Communications Manager further debunked Keyamo’s claim of an amorous relationship, a promise to marry and that the Senior Pastor had actually made the initial move towards marriage by seeing her parents, wondering how such a transaction could have taken place without any iota of evidence.

“Let me place it on record that, the lady in question is a self-confessed stripper in a nite club in Canada, who like thousands of people that seek help from Apostle Johnson Suleiman, called to pretentiously convey her intentions to embrace Christ and also needed financial help to keep body and soul as she no longer had a means of livelihood after quitting as a stripper.

“Does Keyamo or his serial blackmailing client have pictures of the visit by Apostle Suleiman or his representatives to her parents? In any case, how could such a relationship have existed when Apostle and the said lady have never met physically?

“How could he have made a promise of a house and a lifestyle comparable to what she has in Canada when he has never been to her house or seen her physically as to have an idea of her living standards?” He asked.

Shaibu contented that the Lagos lawyer must have been misled or excited by the prospects of getting a whopping N500 million, both reasons for which two letters were written and sent to Apostle Suleiman wondering how Keyamo could have fallen for such a gimmick in the first place.

“If Keyamo was not misled or excited by the prospects of a jackpot of N500 million and or an opportunity to save his already dwindling career in law practice from total caput by latching on the popularity of Apostle Suleman vide this tendentiously devilish plot and skewed romantic fantasy, then we may as well demand an evaluation of his mental state along with his client who was obviously on the verge of delusion before she was arrested.

“It’s either one of the options stated above or he is trying to engage in a proxy war on behalf of some unknown agents who had become irritated by Apostle’s stand on national issues. His inference to the latter incident in Keyamo’s letter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) confirms this benign thought”, he declared.

The spokesman of the church advised Keyamo to drop the proxy war and focus instead on defending his client in court, adding that all attempts to impugn the integrity of the fiery preacher or the Omega Fire Ministries would fall like a pack of cards.

“We are not surprised that this serial blackmailer decided to join forces with a serial divorcee, who has had five children from four failed marriages to make this phantom claim.

“But we dare to ask: Is a serial blackmailer and or a serial divorcee capable of understanding the sanctity of the institution called marriage?The nature of their mental torpidity is understandable and we invite more recondite and decent persons to read in between the lines and separate the wheats from the chaff.

“In this well coordinated plot to pull down Apostle Suleiman at all costs, the lines of Reuben Abati will suffice: ‘lies have become standard stuff, mischief a major commodity, and indecency a character flaw.’

“If Keyamo and his Canada-returnee client think they can capitalize on the famed generosity of Apostle Suleiman to extort N500million through this plot, they sure have missed it as we shall have our day in court.”
Miss Otobo expanded on her allegations, as reported by Ifreke Inyang in the Daily Post, March 10, 2017 (link in original):

The adultery scandal involving the General Overseer of Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleiman and a Canadian-based lady, Stephanie Otobo, is getting messier.

This is as she revealed more details about their alleged affair at a press conference in Lagos on Friday.

Ms. Otobo claimed the cleric loves sex a lot and that they had spent time together at hotels in Naples, New York and Lagos.

“Most of the times we spent together, we had sex,” Ms. Otobo told journalists.

“I refused to have a threesome with him because I’m not a lesbian and I don’t like women touching me.

“He told me he did that with all his past girlfriends, that I was the only one (who refused), that it’s very rude that I can do that to him.

“We were at New York together, two months after I left Napoli. Then he invited me to Nigeria. We were always having sex,” she said.

She added: “In Nigeria, we stayed at Protea Hotel in Ikeja. there’s another hotel after Airport Hotel, there’s a gas station, there’s a new hotel on your right, that’s where he gave me something to drink. I thought it was juice, he brought it, he said let’s drink together, and then he didn’t want to drink, he wanted to eat.

“The night he gave me 8,000 Euros, he was trying to show me that this was real and it would never end, I think he was trying to capture me both physically, spiritually, and mentally.

“Giving somebody so much money, you’re trying to capture them so that without you, they cannot live, because you wanna make yourself their god, that’s what he was trying to do.

“When he came, he was like, ‘this was all I realised today, here you go,’ on the table. Then he said this is how much I love you. After the three days crusade (in Naples), he collected all the money, I was inside, and he said, ‘this is all I realised.’ He gave me everything.

“He told me this was discreet, we couldn’t even call a taxi in the morning when he wanted to discharge me, he had to take a walk with me from his hotel by 4 a.m. to my hotel. I was worried because it could be dangerous, in a place where I don’t know, a new country and everything. He walked me to my hotel and stayed till 7am and went back to his hotel. He said because we have to be discreet, we cannot call a taxi.”

Ms. Otobo called on the police to check her bank records to see proof that Apostle Suleiman sent her money directly from his bank account.

She also denied that the pictures she released were photoshopped.

“He gives me a lot of cash, I’m not talking about 8,000 Euros, I’m not talking about 12,000 Dollars in two weeks.

“If I was a cheap prostitute, how much do you send a cheap prostitute in Canada all the way from Nigeria. I’m based in Canada, I’m sure there are a lot of women that needs money here in Nigeria, how many women or cheap prostitutes has he sent money here in Nigeria?

“We are petitioning the police on that. And also the issue of photoshopping pictures, in between the photoshopped pictures there should be an original copy if the pictures were photoshopped, it must be photoshopped from something, he should provide that. Because I have the cell phones that I used to take the pictures, I still have every original pictures.

“Also, the police should check my passport, he took me to Napoli, he had a programme there, a conference for three days. The police should check his passport, the period it was stamped to Napoli and check my passport, the period I was stamped to Napoli if it was the same stamp.

“He should wake up and face the truth,” she said.
Miss Otobo's mother says that her daughter "is not normal," as reported by Danielle Ogbeche of the Daily Post, March 24, 2017:
Mother of Stephanie Otobo, the alleged girlfriend of Apostle Johnson Suleman of the Omega Fire Ministries, has said she has not seen her daughter in the last three years, noting that her daughter ”is not normal.”

This is coming after Ms. Otobo, a Canadian-based Nigerian singer accused the fiery preacher of impregnating and abandoning her after he promised to marry her.

Following her initial allegation against the preacher, the singer had continued to release more intimidating details about her alleged romance with Suleman.

But her mother, popularly called Mama Tope has opened a fresh controversy on the much publicized saga.

In a chat with newsmen in Sapele, Delta State on Thursday, Mama Tope said she has not met the cleric before, neither has she been to the Omega Fire Ministries.

Describing as untrue claims that she accompanied her daughter to the headquarters of Omega Fire Ministries in Auchi, Edo State for a purported introduction ceremony, she warned that, “those manipulating her daughter against the man of God would be exposed.”

She expressed willingness to, “see the revered cleric to apologize if given access to him.”

She further lamented that, “all efforts to get Stephanie to lead a normal life had not yielded the desired result.”

Mama Tope appealed to Apostle Suleman to, “forgive my daughter and bury the hatchet” even as she blamed the devil for seeking to destroy her daughter.
Mama Tope then went to "Apostle" Suleman to beg for forgiveness, as reported by John Owen Nwachukwu in the Daily Post, March 27, 2017:

Tope Otobo, the mother of Stephanie Otobo, the accuser of founder of Omega Fire Ministry, and her elder sister were on Sunday at the Headquarters of the church at Auchi, Edo State to beg the pastor on behalf Stephanie.

Images of the two women surfaced online shortly after the church service.

Mrs Otobo had recently claimed her daughter was not normal.

In a swift reaction, Stephanie said her mother was threatened to make the speech, adding that the lives of her family members were in danger.

But to make her statement stronger, Mrs Otobo and Stephanie’s sister were captured in a video gone viral kneeling and begging Apostle Suleman.

See video below…

"Apostle" Johnson then filed a countersuit, as reported by John Owen Nwachukwu in the Daily Post, March 29, 2017:

Founder and General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries Worldwide, Apostle Johnson Suleman has reportedly filed a lawsuit against his alleged mistress, Stephanie Otobo, and online news outlet, Sahara Reporters, for defaming his character and image at the Ikeja High Court, Lagos State.

Suleman filed a N1 billion suit on Stephanie Otobo, who claimed she had amorous relationship with him that resulted to pregnancy.

Recall that Mrs Tope Otobo, Stephanie Otobo’s mother, had last Sunday visited the pastor at his church Headquarters in Auchi, Edo State, knelt and begged him to forgive her daughter.

Joined in the suit as reported by the man of God’s media team, is Sahara Reporters who first reported the case and has been in the forefront of publishing interviews by the Canada-based stripper who keeps maintaining her stance of being romantically involved with the Apostle Suleman.

In the suit ID/ADR/347/2017 filed at the Ikeja High Court, Apostle Suleman is also asking N1 billion from each for damages done to his reputation and has hired four lawyers, Chief Efe Akpofure (SAN ), Erhabour O.I, Victor Idiapho and Emmanuel Usoh to represent him.
"Apostle" Suleman is now refusing to speak on the matter for the present time, as reported by Festus Owete and Idris Ibrahim of the Abuja newspaper The Premium Times, April 3, 2017:

Johnson Suleman, the clergyman accused by a Canada-based Nigerian woman of having amorous relationship with her, on Sunday, declined to speak on the allegation, saying he would only “open up” at the appropriate time.

PREMIUM TIMES met Mr. Suleman, the founder of Omega Fire Ministry, OFM, in his Auchi, Edo State office for about 20 minutes shortly after a church service that lasted about four hours.

Our reporters joined the service midway, where Mr. Suleman spoke about the need for unity in the body of Christ in his sermon.
The cleric, who said he was rushing to the Benin airport to catch a flight to Cyprus and Turkey for religious crusades, pleaded with PREMIUM TIMES to be excused from commenting on the matter because it would be subjudicial to speak on it.

This newspaper had on Saturday interviewed Ms. Otobo’s mother, Bukky, at her Sapele, Delta State base.

The light-complexioned woman had said during the interview that she travelled to Auchi to beg Mr. Suleman because her daughter had been manipulated by lawyers.

She had said, “I did that because of my daughter, (and) because I am a mother. The way I am seeing her is not the way I brought her up. And all those her character is not giving me happiness which I want to put an end to. That is why I went to Auchi.”

Mr. Suleman who was approached by this newspaper to speak on the issue, said he would “only do so at the appropriate time.”

He assured that he would speak to PREMIUM TIMES because of the newspaper’s credibility.

He thereafter offered to take a group photograph with the newspaper’s reporters in his palatial office.

Apart from veiled references to the matter during church services, Mr. Suleman has not publicly reacted to the allegations in the media.

His publicists, Phrank Shaibu, had however issued several statements denying the alleged illicit affair with Ms. Otobo.

Ms. Otobo was recently re-arraigned by the police for alleged blackmail, threat to life, conspiracy, and intent to steal from Mr. Suleman.

She was arraigned alongside her associate, Wisdom Godstime, before Magistrate Kikelomo Bukola-Ayeye of the Tinubu Magistrates’ Court in Lagos. Ms. Otobo and her co-defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges.

They were granted bail in the sum of N100,000 each. The case was then adjourned to April 27 for commencement of trial.

This development comes a week after Ms. Otobo formally filed a petition asking the police to investigate multiple allegations against the preacher.

In a letter to the Lagos State Police Commissioner, she accused Mr. Suleman of illegal procurement of abortion, threat to life, and attempted murder.

Ms. Otobo’s petition came days after she told journalists at a press conference that her relationship with Mr. Suleman ended after the preacher began to insist he wanted a sexual activity that involved a threesome.
Miss Otobo, meanwhile, has released a video containing screen shots of her face time with the "apostle," as reported by John Owen Nwachukwu of the Daily Post, April 3, 2017:

The alleged mistress of the General Overseer of Omega Fire Ministry, Worldwide, Apostle Johnson Suleman, Stephanie Otobo, has Presented original screen of her topless Face-time chat with the cleric.

The 23-year old Canada-based Nigerian singer released a video showing the moments they had a video phone call topless.

Recall that the Delta-born singer had accused the Pastor of engaging in an amorous relationship with her, getting her pregnant and promised to marry her, but abandoned her afterward.

There have been denial, accusations and counter accusations since then, with Stephanie’s mother, Mrs Tope Otobo attending the pastor’s church in Auchi, Edo State to plead with him to forgive her daughter.

Apostle Suleman has also file a suit, demanding N1 billion from his accusers.

But in a video gun viral Monday morning, Miss Otobo, in bid to justify her claims, revealed images of her and the cleric during a face-time chat.


Of course, Miss Otobo's allegations haven't yet been proven, but I suspect that this situation will get messier as it goes along.

Monday, April 3, 2017

United Church of Canada-affiliated St. Stephen's College offers courses in Wicca, mindfulness, and Jungian psychology

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; I Timothy 4:1

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. II Timothy 3:5

As the late Dave Breese said, when you depart from the faith, you don't just take a step down, but you drop into the dark abyss. Submitted for your disapproval, more evidence that the United Church of Canada isn't in any biblical sense a Christian church (links inserted by blogger).

St. Stephen's College, founded and governed by the United Church of Canada, is affiliated with the University of Alberta:

St Stephen’s College is a graduate school founded by The United Church of Canada and an Affiliated College of The University of Alberta in Edmonton. An Act to Incorporate St Stephen’s College (April 27, 1927; amended 1968) authorizes St Stephen’s College to confer degrees in theology, including masters level divinity programs in pastoral psychology and counseling. These degrees include: Doctor of Ministry, Master of Theology, Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality, Master of Theological Studies, and Bachelor of Theological Studies. We are an Associate Member of The Association of Theological Schools in The United States and Canada;

According to their statement of Missions and Values:

Mission & Values

Our Mission
To be an interfaith community that offers sacred spaces for learning and transformation.

Our Values
We are deeply committed to the values rooted in our experience and those that shape our response to changing rural, urban and global perspectives. These values help define our life together and are characterized by:

High standards and commitment to scholarship and academic excellence, with academic freedom to explore theology and spirituality;

Academic programs and policies that are grounded in adult learning principles and are learner-centered;

Accessibility to theological education through a multi-faceted program that creates communities of learners;

Integration of theory and practice;

We seek to achieve these values through:

Inclusivity and justice in language and practice for all persons, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation and sexual identities or physical abilities;

Commitment to social justice and ecological responsibility;

Honoring and understanding the need to be in care of one another;

Resiliency and creativity in the presence of a constantly changing social climate;

Consultative ethos, including academic planning and decision-making processes characterized by open communication, widespread consultation, and transparency;

Mutual respect for and honouring of diverse cultures, locally and abroad;

Openness to risk-taking, innovation and flexibility in offering of programs, in our relationship to the communities around us, and in supporting faith communities as they undertake theological reflection;

Shaping of our theology by the contexts in which we live and work and have our being, and solidarity with those who suffer;

Financial stability and accountability.

Updated: April 22, 2013
Courses offered for credit at St. Stephen's College include the following:

JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY [CHRTP523]

Psychotherapeutic process and spirituality is explored in the context of Jungian analytic thought. This course integrates key concepts such as projection, transference, and typology in exploring the individuation process. Further exploration will be made of dreams, the numinous and the psyche-soma relationship as they relate to psychological development and the Jungian therapeutic process.


MINDFULNESS FOR TEACHERS [CHRTP330]

“Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing.” [cite:plumvillage.org]This course will help you develop and nurture the energy of mindfulness in your own life and in turn in the lives of your students. In this course you will:

Increase body/mind awareness by practicing various forms of meditation

Develop your ability to be ‘present’ with your students

Explore the possibilities of contemplative play

Develop mindfulness exercises for students of varied age levels

Consider how the arts can be used for contemplation and transformation


SPECIAL TOPICS: INTRO TO WICCAN THEOLOGY [CHRTP400]

Introducing foundational ideas and practices of the New Religious Movement of Wicca. Wicca is polytheistic, syncretic, and experiential. It draws from Western occultism, European folk magic and tradition, feminism, ecological theology, and queer theory. The course mixes lecture, discussion of readings, writing and practice.


Carl Jung is popular with New Agers--especially those who claim to be Christians--but was a man whose "wisdom" came from a "spirit guide," i.e., demon, named Philemon. For more on Carl Jung, see PsychoHeresy: C. G. Jung's Legacy to the Church.

Mindfulness is a word that's been receiving a lot of publicity in recent years. A good description is provided by Mark A. Burch of the Simplicity Institute, an organization that appears to include those who are ostensibly Christian, but who follow Eastern religious practices (which is a subject for another post). From Mr. Burch's report Mindfulness: The Doorway to Simple Living (2012):

Mindfulness, or Right Mindfulness, is one precept drawn from a set of interdependent precepts called The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. (p. 3)

Formal mindfulness practice consists of sitting meditation with attention focused on one’s breathing, either by counting breaths or by silently witnessing the act of breathing, to the exclusion of all other internal or external distractions...

...Practices that specifically develop stable states of mindful awareness often entail formal meditation or contemplation. In Buddhist Vipassana (mindfulness of breathing) practice, for example, attention is focused on the breath with the intention of slowly developing concentration, cultivating inner stillness and eventually an ever deepening insight into the activities and dynamics of one’s own conscious awareness ...

...Christian “Centering Prayer,” while differing from Buddhist Vipassana in its intention, is nearly indistinguishable in its method. The Buddhist is intent on liberation from suffering and growing in compassion whereas the Christian practitioner of centering prayer is intent on cultivating a state of inner stillness and spiritual receptivity to the action of the Holy Spirit. The Buddhist “anchors” attention on the breath while the Christian anchors it on a “prayer word,” not unlike a mantra, expressing the contemplative’s intention to open themselves to intimacy with God (Keating, 1998). But otherwise, all the physical postures, preparation, attitudes and activities that one brings to the practice are nearly identical.
(pp. 4-5).

The reader will notice that Mr. Burch admits that mindfulness comes from Buddhism, and that Christian "Centering Prayer" is indistinguishable, in practice, from the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. The inevitable conclusion for those who indulge in such practices is that since the experiences are similar regardless of one's religious tradition, they must derive from the same source, leading the practitioner toward universalism.

The course in Wicca--advertised as an Arts option--is taught by Sam Magar. According to the course syllabus:

Sam Wagar MA, Wiccan 3rd Degree Initiate, is the author of four books and numerous published papers and articles. He has founded an international Pagan pacifist network, a religious retreat, five Temples, and several covens. He is a Doctor of Ministry student at St. Stephen's College and the Wiccan chaplain to the University of Alberta.

It comes as no great surprise, but is nonetheless disturbing to this blogger, to see that not only does the University of Alberta now have a Wiccan chaplain, but this publicly-funded university is offering credit for practicing a pagan religion ("practice" is said to be part of the course). I don't think the university is offering credit for practicing Christianity now, and if such credit was offered when I was a student there in the 1980s, I wasn't aware of it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

20 years ago: The Heaven's Gate mass suicide

On March 26, 1997, police officers in the San Diego–area community of Rancho Santa Fe, California found the bodies of 39 members of the unidentified flying objects transhumanist cult Heaven's Gate in the mansion which they rented. The dead included the movement's founder and leader, Marshall Herff Applewhite, 65. The people who committed suicide--consuming a combination of phenobarbitol and apple sauce, washed down with vodka, followed by securing plastic bags around their heads in order to cause asphyxiation--did so in order to reach what they believed was an extraterrestrial spacecraft following Comet Hale–Bopp, which was then clearly visible from Earth.

Heaven's Gate exhibited numerous classic characteristics of cults: the deadly mixture of a little truth and much error (a smattering of Bible passages on end times, but heavy reliance on extrabiblical sources of truth, with especially heavy doses of New Age teaching and literature); authoritarian leadership (especially dangerous when the leaders believe themselves to be directly fulfilling prophecy; a fortress mentality; and bizarre economic and lifestyle practices (including voluntary castration of Mr. Applewhite and seven other men).

As far as I know, the members of Heaven's Gate who committed suicide haven't yet been transported to Comet Hale-Bopp. I don't know the comet's current whereabouts, but it's somewhere--out there. Surprisingly, the website for Heaven's Gate still exists; it's reportedly maintained by surviving members, but that's far from obvious to the casual visitor.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Has the tomb of Jonah been discovered in Iraq?

And now for something completely different: a positive result from Islamic terrorism. As reported by Josie Ensor of the London Daily Telegraph, February 28, 2017:

Archaeologists documenting Isil’s destruction of the ruins of the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah say they have made an unexpected discovery which could help in our understanding of the world’s first empire.

The Nebi Yunus shrine - containing what Muslims and Christians believe to be the tomb of Jonah, as he was known in the Bible, or Yunus in the Koran - was blown up by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants soon after they seized huge swathes of northern Iraq in 2014.

The shrine is situated on top of a hill in eastern Mosul called Nebi Yunus - one of two mounds that form part of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh.

The Iraqi army retook the area from Isil last month, revealing the extensive damage wrought by the jihadists.

But local archaeologists have told the Telegraph that Isil also dug tunnels deep under the demolished shrine and into a previously undiscovered and untouched 600BC palace.

Limited excavation was carried out by the Ottoman governor of Mosul in 1852, which was revisited by the Iraqi department of antiquities in the 1950s. But neither team reached as far as the palace.

It is the first evidence of Isil’s use of tunneling in ancient grounds in their hunt for artefacts to plunder.

Inside one of the tunnels, Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih discovered a marble cuneiform inscription of King Esarhaddon thought to date back to the Assyrian empire in 672BC.

While the king’s name is not visible on the cuneiform slab, a historian who has seen photographs of it says phrases are legible which were used only to describe him, in particular his rebuilding of Babylon after his father Sennacherib had it destroyed.

The palace was built for Sennacherib, renovated and expanded by Esarhaddon (681-669 BC), and renovated again by Ashurbanipal (669-627). It was partly destroyed during the Sack of Nineveh in 612 BC.

There are only a handful of such cuneiforms recovered from the period, most of which from the second mound just north of Nebi Yunus in Kouyunjik.

In another part of the tunnel they discovered Assyrian stone sculptures of a demi-goddess, depicted sprinkling the “water of life” to protect humans in her care.

“I’ve never seen something like this in stone at this large size,” said Prof Eleanor Robson, chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, suggesting they may have been used to decorate the women's quarter of the palace. “The objects don’t match descriptions of what we thought was down there, so Isil’s destruction has actually led us to a fantastic find.

“There’s a huge amount of history down there, not just ornamental stones. It is an opportunity to finally map the treasure-house of the world’s first great empire, from the period of its greatest success.”

Ms Salih, a former curator of the Mosul museum who is supervising a five-man team carrying out the emergency documentation, said she believes Isil looted hundreds of objects before Iraqi forces recaptured the eastern side of the city.

“I can only imagine how much Daesh discovered down there before we got here,” she told the Telegraph by phone from Mosul. “We believe they took many of the artefacts, such as pottery and smaller pieces, away to sell. But what they left will be studied and will add a lot to our knowledge of the period."

She warned that the tunnels were not professionally built, however, and are at risk of collapsing “within weeks” - burying and potentially destroying the new finds.

Experts from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq - alongside other international teams - are bidding to help local archaeologists secure and document the site. Unesco is due to hold a meeting in Paris later this month to decide who will be sent.

The terror group destroyed several other key landmarks in Mosul and elsewhere because they considered the worshipping of shrines not to be in keeping with their Islamic traditions. Isil militants believe giving special veneration to tombs and relics is against the teachings of Islam.

A report just released by the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government lists some 100 sacred buildings damaged or wiped off the map during Isil’s two-year reign.

They closed all of Mosul’s museums and cultural centres during their more than two-year reign over the city. Many of the city’s archaeologists and historians went into hiding.

“Many decided to stay in the city when Isil came, fearing what they might do to their families if they fled,” said Prof Robson. “They hid their books and lied about their expertise. Thankfully, most of them survived.”