Tuesday, 31 January 2012

120 years ago: The death of C.H. Spurgeon

On January 31, 1892, the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London since 1861, went to be with the Lord at the age of 57. Unlike Mr. Spurgeon, I’m not a Calvinist, but I respect him as a brother in Christ, and I appreciate his devotional writings. My favourite quote from Mr. Spurgeon is: "Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”

For more about and by C.H. Spurgeon, see the sites Charles Spurgeon Quotes and The Spurgeon Archive. I particularly recommend the section from the latter site on the Down-Grade controversy, which not only remains relevant, but more so with each day. I knew that Mr. Spurgeon had decided to leave the Baptist Union in 1887 because of its increasing tolerance of heretics, but I was surprised to discover that he had a brother named James who had become associate pastor at Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1868 and who chose to remain within the Baptist Union.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

John and Yoko's "bed-in" was more tasteful than that of Ed and Lisa Young

I addressed Ed Young and pastors of his ilk in a previous post, and my views haven't changed. Unfortunately, like cancer, Mr. Young keeps recurring. Some of us of a certain age may remember when John Lennon of the music group The Beatles married Japanese artist Yoko Ono in 1969. The couple staged a "bed-in" in their suite at the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam for a week, and followed it with a more heavily-publicized bed-in at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in late May and early June. Mr. and Mrs. Lennon used the Montreal bed-in as an occasion to promote the cause of peace (as they saw it), especially with regard to the Vietnam War (for film footage, see the documentary Imagine: John Lennon (1988)). "Pastor" and Mrs. Ed Young have no such lofty purpose when it comes to their bed-in--it's all about sex, with endorsements coming from the usual suspects. As reported by Anugrah Kumar in The Christian Post, January 7, 2012:

Ed and Lisa Young, founders of Texas-based Fellowship Church, will spend 24 hours in bed on the church roof next week and stream themselves discussing sex live on the Internet to encourage married couples to see firsthand the power of a healthy sex life as prescribed in their new book, Sexperiment.

Two days after their book, Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse, is released Tuesday, the Youngs will take part in a 24-hour “bed-in,” which will be streamed on the book’s website as they engage the audience on issues related to intimacy in marriage.

The book encourages married couples to have sex for seven straight days – a challenge that made headlines in 2008 when Pastor Young first introduced it to his church – with the promise that the “amazing results” will last far beyond the week.

“Tragically, culture has kicked the bed out of church and God out of the bed,” says Ed Young, who has been “happily married” to Lisa for almost 30 years. “It’s time to bring God back in the bed and put the bed back in the church. That’s what this bed-in is all about.”

Throughout the 24-hour period beginning at 6 a.m. Friday, Jan. 13, the Youngs will do live interviews in person as well as via Skype, answering relationship questions and highlighting their most popular teachings about sex and relationships live via Twitter and Facebook.

Sexperiment, the authors say, serves as a catalyst for people to begin a dialogue about sex and a challenge to make sex a priority in the marriage bed so couples will remain united outside the bed. The book takes readers to biblical teaching pointing to God’s purpose for sex in marriage – not only personal pleasure, but connection to each other and Him.

“God thought up sex,” says the Grapevine pastor who hosts a weekly television program that airs weekly on ABC Family. “It was His idea. And it’s not just about procreation; it’s about recreation and enjoyment. The bed-in is about empowering couples to experience the relationship and recreation that God has for them every day of their lives!”

Though many view sex as just a physical routine, the Youngs stress that it is a gift from God that is “emotional, physical, psychological, and above all, spiritual.”

“Christians tend to think that sensuality is carnality, but in actuality it’s spirituality,” they write in their book.

So why seven days? The couple says the number seven often symbolizes wholeness or completion in the Bible. “[W]e are striving for wholeness and full satisfaction in marriage. The Sexperiment can be the first step,” they write in the book.

Christian leaders are endorsing the book. “Ed and Lisa Young have modeled a Christ-centered marriage for over 25 years,” said Craig and Amy Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv. “Their straightforward, encouraging and practical teaching in Sexperiment will take your marriage to a greater depth of intimacy than you’ve ever known before.”

Steven and Holly Furtick of Elevation Church commented, “Our approach to the subject [of sex in marriage] is based on restraint rather than vision.” Sexperiment “changes that.”

“If you want to experience all of the pleasure and happiness God intended for your marriage, this book is a must-read.”

Carl and Laura Lentz of Hillsong, New York City, stated, “My wife and I look at their (Youngs') marriage, the way they still laugh with each other and live life so passionately, and are instantly inspired.”

Pastor Young is known for using out of the ordinary ways to teach his congregation. In February 2011, he literally drove a Ferrari and Rolls-Royce onto the church stage as part of a sermon illustration to tell the congregation they are a Rolls-Royce as they are made in the image of God.

Young is also kicking off a “Sexperiment” sermon series this weekend to coincide with the book’s release. The popular pastor is hoping to “change the way people see the connection between God and sex.”

“For too long, we have been falling for the world’s lies about what sex is. It’s time to get back to understanding the truth about this amazing gift – God’s truth!” he wrote on his blog.

Rob Bell says goodbye to his megachurch, hello to his own "reality" TV show

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. Proverbs 26:3

Rob Bell, formerly a rock guitarist, has now decided to return to the entertainment world.

As reported by Niraj Warikoo in the Detroit Free Press, January 11, 2012:

One of Michigan's most noted religious leaders said good-bye to his congregation this week as he prepares to help create a TV series loosely based on his life.

Rob Bell, the founding pastor of the Mars Hill megachurch near Grand Rapids, is moving to California, where he will continue writing books and work on a TV show for ABC with the producer of "Lost."

According to Deadline.com, the series will be called "Stronger," about the life of "Tom Stronger, a musician and teacher, and his spiritual journey." The show will feature "autobiographical elements" from the life of Bell, Deadline said.

Bell was in a rock band before he became known as a Christian pastor.

Bell did not return phone calls seeking comment, and officials at Mars Hill declined to talk about his departure. "We're not taking interviews or discussing our transition plans," church spokesman Lee Jager said...

...It was at a Time gala that Bell met Carlton Cuse, the producer and writer with "Lost," according to Deadline. Bell's last appearance at the church was during a farewell service Sunday.

In his last sermon, delivered Dec. 18, Bell told his congregation that when members of the church found out he was leaving, "for many of you it was like a bomb going off -- you didn't expect it, you weren't looking for it."

He said that "through you, I have experienced the mysterious joy of creation. ... Thank you."

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Canada--with no legal obligation to do so--will recognize "marriages" of sodomites and lesbians from nations where such unions aren't recognized

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:26-32

As reported by Thandi Fletcher of Postmedia News, January 13, 2012:

OTTAWA — The Conservative government plans to change the law to legally recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who came to Canada to wed, even if the laws of their home country do not, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Friday.

"I want to make it very clear that, in our government's view, these marriages should be valid," Nicholson said in Toronto. "We will change the Civil Marriage Act so that any marriages performed in Canada that aren't recognized in the couple's home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada."

The legislative change will apply to all marriages performed in Canada regardless of the laws of the jurisdiction in which the couple lives, Nicholson said.

The minister was speaking in the wake of an international controversy sparked by a Toronto court case involving a foreign lesbian couple seeking a divorce in Canada.

The couple wed in Toronto in 2005. Under a court order, they cannot be named.

In response to their application, a federal lawyer for the Justice Department contended the couple cannot divorce in Canada under this country's laws, arguing that the two never really were married.

The lawyer put forth two interpretations of the law to support his argument.

The first, he said, is that a same-sex couple's marriage is only valid under this country's laws if gay marriage is also recognized in their home country or state — in this case, Florida and England.

The second argument was that Canada's Divorce Act states that all married couples, regardless of sexual orientation, must live in Canada for at least one year in order to divorce in this country, which was not the case for this non-Canadian couple.

On Friday, the Conservative government backtracked from the position put forth by the federal lawyer.

Nicholson did not say whether the government will look at amending the residency requirement of the Divorce Act, that a couple must live in the country for at least one year in order to dissolve their marriage.

A senior government official told Postmedia News on Friday that the government will not be looking at changes to the Divorce Act, as amending that legislation could have complicated outcomes.

"That opens up a whole bunch of problems," the official said. "(It could) make Canada kind of the divorce location of choice and that would put burdens on the courts here."

Instead, the official said the government is exploring other options of dissolving marriages for same-sex couples who do not live in Canada, a concept that Nicholson has echoed.

"I will be looking at options to clarify the law so that marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada," Nicholson said in a statement on Thursday...

...On Friday, Nicholson repeated what he and Harper said Thursday: that the issue of same-sex marriage is not on the Conservative government's agenda.

"We have been clear that we have no desire to reopen this issue" be said. "Both myself and the prime minister consider the debate to be closed," Nicholson said.

However, Postmedia News columnist Andrew Coyne argued, in his January 13, 2012 column, that the government is under no obligation to recognize the "marriages" of sodomites and lesbians from nations where such unions wouldn't be recognized:

This week’s media meltdown over same-sex marriage for foreign tourists was one of the more disgraceful episodes in the long history of phoney controversies in this country: a toxic mix of shrewd lawyering, shoddy reporting and partisan opportunism, all without the slightest reference to the relevant, and easily obtainable, facts.

The debacle began with a front-page screamer in Thursday morning’s Globe and Mail. In a “reversal of policy,” it reported, the Harper government had indicated it would not recognize as lawful thousands of marriages solemnized in Canada between visiting gay and lesbian couples since the practice was formally legalized here in 2005. The story suggested the government’s “hard line” had “cast sudden doubt” on the legal status not only of these couples, most of whom stayed just long enough to pick up their licences, but of gay couples living in Canada as well.

The government’s “about-face” was “revealed” in legal papers filed in the case of a lesbian couple who, having married in Canada, now wished to divorce here, and for the same reason: as they could not legally marry in either of the jurisdictions where they happened to live, Florida or England, neither could they divorce there. Of course, by the same token divorce would hardly seem necessary. But, well, it was important to them emotionally.

Imagine their shock to be told they could not divorce in Canada, either. Not only did they not meet the one-year residency condition required of all divorcing couples, gay or straight, but there was, according to the government’s filing, no marriage to dissolve: as their marriage was not legal in the jurisdictions in which they lived, neither was it legal here. The couple’s lawyer, Martha McCarthy, professed to find this position “astonishing,” not to say scandalous, offensive, appalling, outrageous and whatever other adjectives she could get her hands on...

...You would never know from any of this that in fact there had been no change in policy: that the position advanced by the government lawyer was not new, but merely a statement of settled law. You would never know because neither the Globe nor anyone in the frothing mob it aroused bothered to ask a lawyer — other than the one contesting the case. Had they done so, they would have been told some version of the following:

Normally marriage law is relatively straightforward. Each country defines marriage for itself, and within its borders its citizens are bound by that definition. Where citizens of one country marry in another, however, responsibility is divided between the two, according to the set of common-law rules known as “conflict of laws.”

The “formal validity” of the marriage — that is, whether the vows were exchanged in the appropriate manner— is determined by the laws of the place where the marriage was performed. But the “essential validity” — that is, whether the couple were eligible to get married at all — is determined by the laws of each partner’s “ante-nuptial domicile,” the place they lived before they were married.

There’s no actual controversy on this point. It’s supported by reams of precedent. It’s not some invention of this government, or of Canada for that matter, but is part of the fabric of international law. Nor is it surprising: I’m basing this article in part on a piece by Jeffrey Talpis, professor of law at the University of Montreal, in the Lawyer’s Weekly of Sept. 22, 2006. It’s hard not to sympathize with those who were told when they came to Canada they were legally married. But the fault lies with those who misstated the law then, not those who correctly interpret it now.

Indeed, the surest proof that the government lawyer was right on this point is that you are reading about it. McCarthy knows the law as well as anyone. If she were confident of her position, she’d simply have won the argument in court. Instead, she took her case to the court of politics, with spectacular results: by the end of the day, the government was promising to change the law to permit all non-resident gay couples to divorce, followed by Friday’s “declaration” that the marriages were also legal, whatever the laws in their home countries might say.

As with my previous post on the Harper government's invitation to foreign sodomites and lesbians to apply for admission to Canada Trudeaupia as refugees, here's more evidence that "Conservatives" are just conserving what Liberals have done before them.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

40 years ago: David Todd's sin finds him out

....and be sure your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23b

On January 12, 1972, the body of Grace Todd, 32, was discovered in a freezer belonging to her husband David, 37, who had recently moved into a house in Toronto belonging to the family of a 21-year-old acquaintance named Charles Cassidy. Mr. Cassidy and his sister Catherine, their mother, and friends John Moore and Layne Jackson were watching an old episode of One Step Beyond on television. The plot involved a body in a trunk, and, while Mr. Todd was asleep in an upstairs bedroom, the others decided to pry open the freezer. They discovered the body of Mr. Todd's wife Grace, who had disappeared on July 30, 1971, but had actually been shot and killed by Mr. Todd at the end of a violent argument. Mr. Todd readily confessed, pled guilty to manslaughter, and was sentenced to 10 years in the Kingston penitentiary. The details can be found in Max Haines' book Bothersome Bodies (1977), pp. 166-176.

Friday, 6 January 2012

"Christian" witchcraft moves from Congo to England

Another inspiring episode in the wonderful history of multiculturalism; as Paul Harvey used to say, "It is not one world." If the testimony reported below is true, this incident at least shows that false teaching and unbiblical practices aren't restricted to churches in the West. As reported by Press Association, January 6, 2012:

A teenage boy was tortured and drowned on Christmas Day because a relative believed he was a witch, the Old Bailey has heard.

Kristy Bamu, 15, was in such pain after days of being attacked with sticks, a metal bar, hammer and chisel that he begged to die, jurors were told.

His brother-in-law, Eric Bikubi, was joined by his partner, Kristy's sister Magalie, in the horror, said Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, and his other siblings were forced to join in before they were all placed in the bath to be hosed down in cold water with a shower head by Bikubi on December 25 2010.

"It was only when he realised that Kristy was not moving that he stopped what he was doing and pulled him from the water. By then it was too late," said Mr Altman.

Magalie Bamu and Bikubi, both 28, of Hathaway Crescent, Newham, east London, deny murdering Kristy. Bamu also denies two charges of causing actual bodily harm to her sisters. Mr Altman said Bikubi has admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but this was rejected by the prosecution who say the couple carried out "the very deliberate murder" of Kristy. Bikubi had also admitted the assaults on the two sisters.

The youngsters had arrived from their home in Paris to spend the festive season with the couple.

Mr Altman said Kristy had 101 injuries and died from a combination of being beaten and drowning. Paramedics tried to save him but he was already dead.

In the living room, police found Kristy's brothers and sisters - brothers Yves, 22, and a 13-year-old, and sisters Kelly, 20, and an 11-year-old. Kelly said their holiday turned sour when Bikubi accused Kristy, herself and their younger sister of "being witches or sorcerers - practising witchcraft".

"Despite her own siblings' denials that they were sorcerers, Magalie Bamu joined her boyfriend in repeating these fantastic claims and participating in the assaults," said Mr Altman. "They beat the three of them, refusing to let them eat, drink or sleep for days, while the punishments being meted out became increasingly violent, with them using many implements found in the flat as weapons of torture."

The jury was told that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the defendants are originally from, witchcraft or sorcery, called kindoki, is practised in Christian churches, but if it is taken out of the church's control "it may take on a feral and indeed evil character, as we suggest it did here", Mr Altman said.

Ted Haggard supports Newt Gingrich for President of the United States

File under "birds of a feather..."
It comes as no surprise to this blogger to hear that disgraced degenerate goatherd (and I say that with all due respect) Ted Haggard is supporting the U.S. presidential candidacy of adulterous New Age convert to Roman Catholicism Newt Gingrich. As reported by Kris Coombs in the Christian Post, December 30, 2011:

Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, says he will support Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in 2012.

“I am a Newt Gingrich fan partially because he models resurrection to me. He has been married three times, he has gone through his own infidelity, his own growth process, and his own repentance and renewal of faith so I trust him because of that,” Haggard told FOX 411.

Haggard, former pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado, was also one of former President George W. Bush’s biggest supporters during his campaign and served as Bush’s spiritual adviser.

“It is the heartbreak in life that makes us the people we want to be,” Haggard added, embracing Gingrich’s relationship faults, as other conservatives have relentlessly condemned them.

Ted Haggard refuses to stay out of the limelight

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money...
...He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
I Timothy 3:2-3, 7 (NIV)

It speaks volumes about the state of American evangelicalism that not many years ago the National Association of Evangelicals chose infamous Colorado Springs megachurch goatherd Ted FHaggard to be their leader. Now, appropriately, he's back as a star on a television program called Celebrity Wife Swap. As reported by Jeff Schapiro of the Christian Post, January 1, 2012:

Ted Haggard, the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals who resigned five years ago following a gay sex scandal, will be featured in Tuesday's ABC premier of “Celebrity Wife Swap.” Haggard told The Christian Post that he hopes the show will “communicate hope” and show the world that his family has “resurrected” from its dark past.

“I don't think there's anybody that I know of that more reflects the resurrection of Christ than I do right now,” Haggard said. “After what we've been through, the way Christ has healed us and restored us and built our family and blessed us, it's a wonderful story of resurrection and encouragement and God's faithfulness and the faithfulness of the Scriptures and the church."

In addition to the NAE, Haggard resigned from his position at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, a megachurch he and his wife, Gayle, founded, after a male prostitute accused Haggard of paying him for sex over a three year period. Haggard was also accused of using illegal drugs during his meetings with the prostitute.

Since the scandal, Haggard has been open to the public about his fall from grace and says he has come out of it a changed and better man. His relationship with his wife of more than 30 years is also now stronger than ever, he has said.

“Celebrity Wife Swap” paired up Haggard for one week with Steffanie Sampson, the fiancee of Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Busey, while Gayle spent the week with Busey.

The two couples make an interesting religious combination. The Haggards are evangelical Christians who currently lead Saint James Church and the Buseys follow New Age philosophies, including reincarnation. Busey and Sampson believe they are married in spirit and are currently in their 32nd lifetime together.

For the first half of the week, the swapped wives had to assume each other’s homes, and lifestyles, but in the second half they took charge of the house rules.

In spite of their very different belief systems, Haggard says Sampson fit in quite well at his home and church in Colorado.

In the first half of the week she assumed Gayle's duties, which included teaching a Bible study Gayle had prepared in advance, reading daily devotions every morning and helping to host a “thank you” barbecue for the 40 small group leaders from Haggard's new congregation.

When it was time for Sampson to take over the house, though, Haggard says she was encouraging and was “absolutely determined not to violate our faith.” He says she came into the show with the attitude that “the Haggards have suffered too much,” that they are constantly reminded of their guilt, and she decided not to bring up their past at all.

She also told Haggard that he was forgiven, and “kept emphasizing that none of us should be defined by our weakest moment.”

"So actually, you would think she was a Spirit-filled Christian because of the way she tried to be encouraging ... but she was coming from a New Age philosophy,” he said. "Very sadly, she gave me many messages that the church should have been giving me over the last five years."

He says some Christians have been supportive of him over the last few years in spite of his moral failure, though many have been critical. He thinks the show will be “insightful for judgmental Christians...”

...Haggard's church has grown to approximately 350 people since it was started in 2010, he said. St. James Church meets at Timberview Middle School in Colorado Springs.

"I think all of us need to trust God's sovereignty. And God has given the Haggard family an opportunity to minister life on ABC, and I think He set it up perfectly with the producers we had and with the Busey family. We feel very blessed and honored,” Haggard said.

Contrary to what the article states, Mr. Haggard has not been "open to the public about his fall from grace." Like Jim Bakker before him, Mr. Haggard has never admitted the specific things he was accused of (I found the homosexual prostitute's accusations far more credible than Mr. Haggard's denials). Mr. Haggard refused to complete counselling after his exposure, and bolted to start a new "church." The only time he's told the truth in recent years was, ironically, when he admitted to being a liar. I've never believed that Ted Haggard was a man of God who fell; rather, he's continued to provide evidence that he's a man of fraud who was exposed. Typical of an unrepentant sinner, he uses the word "judgmental" to criticize those who want to uphold Biblical standards of holiness for Christian leaders.

For more evidence of Mr. Haggard's lack of repentance, see Elena Garcia's interview with him in the Christian Post on February 15, 2011. The reader will note that the other fallen people of note who have been "restored" that Mr. Haggard compares himself with are secular entertainment and sports celebrities, whose positions don't require Biblical standards of holiness. One of those mentioned by Mr. Haggard, Michael Vick, has shown more evidence of repentance for his sins than has Mr. Haggard. The fact that Mr. Haggard doesn't seem to understand the difference between a popular culture celebrity and a leader in the church of Jesus Christ says enough about him and his qualifications for Christian leadership.

Jews and Muslims in Detroit team up for volunteer social service activities on Christmas Day

With California's Saddleback Church, under the leadership of Rick Warren, cancelling worship services for one weekend in December 2011 in favour of engaging in community service activities, it's only a matter of time until evangelical churches community service centres team up with Jews and Muslims for Christmas Day activities in the future. As reported by The Associated Press on December 25, 2011:

The Detroit area's Jewish community is continuing a tradition of working with Muslims to serve their Christian neighbors while they celebrate Christmas.

About 125 Muslims are expected to join about 800 Jewish volunteers Sunday for Mitzvah Day, the single largest day of volunteering by the Jewish community. It's the third year for the team-up between Jews and Muslims.

The volunteers will be helping 40 Detroit-area social service agencies at sites throughout the day.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit has sponsored Mitzvah Day for more than 20 years. This will be the third year that Muslims have joined the effort.

Mitzvah means "commandment" in Hebrew and is generally translated as a good deed.

King of Bahrain hosts vice-president of World Jewish Congress

As reported by ynetnews.com, January 2, 2012:

World Jewish Congress (WJC) Vice President Rabbi Marc Schneier, also president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, has been received for talks in the Gulf state of Bahrain by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Schneier, who has pioneered Muslim-Jewish dialogue and cooperation, was received Wednesday by the Bahraini monarch at his palace in Manama.

During his 45-minute audience, Rabbi Schneier warmly welcomed King Hamad’s suggestion to host a gathering of Jewish and Muslim clerics in Bahrain in 2012.

“Bahrain is a role model in the Arab world for coexistence and tolerance of different faith communities, including a small Jewish community," he said. "I am deeply honored to be the first rabbi to be hosted by the king of Bahrain at his palace, and I am excited that he and his government are fully committed to building bridges between our two communities.”

Rabbi Schneier added that Bahrain was the first of the Persian Gulf states to host an exclusive bilateral dialogue between Islamic and Jewish leaders.

“King Hamad said that there was nothing more natural than for our two communities to come together, despite our difference in opinion on certain issues. He said that as ‘cousins’, Jews and Muslims had an obligation to build bridges.”

The two men also discussed the current situation in the Middle East. Rabbi Schneier said King Hamad had told him about the reforms he had implemented in Bahrain in the wake of the Arab Spring, including representatives of the opposition.

“I believe Bahrain could serve as a model for other countries in the region. I am looking forward to working with King Hamad and his government to bring our two communities closer together.”

Schneier also met separately with the Bahraini ministers of justice and Islamic affairs, Khaled Bin Ali Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, and the minister of industry and commerce, Hassan Fakhro.

Together with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, Rabbi Marc Schneier heads the New York-based FFEU, which over the past years has dedicated many efforts to fostering Muslim-Jewish dialogue in North America, Europe and Latin America.

Together with its partners, FFEU recently organized the fourth edition of the Annual Weekend of Twinning of synagogues and mosques around the world.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

And now for something completely different: A heterosexual Roman Catholic clergy scandal

As reported by The Associated Press on January 5, 2012:

The resignation of a Los Angeles bishop who fathered two children has shocked the nation's most populous Roman Catholic archdiocese, where Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala grew up.

Zavala, 60, who once urged Catholic media to report scandals such as clergy sex abuse "in a spirit of love and mercy," had his resignation accepted on Wednesday by Pope Benedict XVI...

..."This is unexpected, sad and disorienting news for many people who know and like Bishop Zavala," archdiocesan spokesman Tod Tamberg said. "Remember, he was raised here. He has deep roots in Los Angeles and so he's very well-known here."

Tamberg said he knew nothing about Zavala's affair except that it involved consenting adults and that no church funds were used...

...Zavala was one of five auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese and was the primary pastoral and liturgical administrator for 66 churches in the San Gabriel region east of Los Angeles, Tamberg said. Archbishop Jose Gomez has selected someone to handle those duties until the Vatican can appoint a replacement.

Zavala informed the archbishop last month that he had fathered two children who live with their mother in another state, Gomez said in a letter to the archdiocese's approximately 5 million Catholics. The archbishop said Zavala told him that he had submitted his resignation to the pope.

"Since that time, he has not been in ministry and will be living privately," the archbishop said in the letter, which was posted on a Catholic blog.

Tamberg did not know the children's ages or gender.

"The archdiocese has reached out to the mother and children to provide spiritual care as well as funding to assist the children with college costs. The family's identity is not known to the public, and I wish to respect their right to privacy," the archbishop wrote...

...Zavala was born in Guerrero, Mexico, but grew up in Los Angeles. He was ordained in 1977 and was assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a church in the heavily Mexican-American East Los Angeles area. He was appointed an auxiliary bishop in 1994.

In a June 2010 speech to the Catholic Media Association, Zavala spoke about the duty of Catholic media to "report the truth, because the truth does set us free," but with mercy and concern for individuals.

In his role as auxiliary bishop, Zavala spoke out in support of immigration rights and prison reforms, better conditions for the working poor and against the death penalty.

A handful of other priests have quit their post over sexual relationships, including: Florida priest Alberto Cutie, who resigned in 2009 and married his then-girlfriend; Auxiliary Bishop James McCarthy of New York, who resigned in 2002 after the archdiocese was alerted about his affairs with women; and Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who resigned in 1993 after confessing relationships with women.

The late Archbishop Eugene Marino of Atlanta resigned in 1990 when his relationship with a parishioner was made public; the woman said she and the archbishop had secretly married.

New "tricks" from science include spatial, temporal, aural, and plasmodic cloaking

And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
II Thessalonians 2:8-9

And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast;
Revelation 13:13-14a

I don't know if these developments have any prophetic significance, but they're interesting. First, there was "spatial cloaking." As reported by Charles Q. Choi of The Christian Science Monitor, February 2, 2011:

An "invisibility cloak" that's able to hide items thousands of times larger than before now exists, scientists say.

The first hints that cloaking devices might one day become more than just a "Star Trek" fantasy began emerging five or so years ago, and since then researchers have made such cloaks a reality by warping light.

Light is often bent in nature. For instance, mirages form when desert sands heat air that bends light rays from up above, creating illusions of water that are really reflections of the sky. The cloaking devices that scientists have created smoothly guide rays of light completely around objects so they proceed along their original trajectory as if nothing were there.

However, the first cloaking devices researchers made were useless against the human eye. To start with, they were only effective on microwave rays, not visible light. They also only worked in two dimensions, and thus could not hide three-dimensional objects.

In 2010, scientists created the first cloak that worked for three-dimensional objects against light nearly visible to humans. Still, the cloaked area was only 30 microns wide, or about one-third the width of a human hair.

Now researchers have developed a cloak that can hide three-dimensional objects against red and green lasers and ordinary white light. Although the cloaked region they demonstrated is only three-quarters of an inch (2 centimeters) wide, "there is actually no limit on the size of the cloak," researcher Shuang Zhang, a physicist at the University of Birmingham in England, told LiveScience.

All invisibility cloaks demonstrated until now were made of artificial composite structures known as metamaterials. The fabrication techniques for these metamaterials are complex and time-consuming, yielding only tiny cloaks that could only hide similarly tiny objects limited to only a few wavelengths of light in size.

In contrast, this new cloak is made of prisms of naturally occurring calcite. These crystals are each about three-quarters of an inch wide on their longest sides, much larger than the parts seen in previous cloaks.

The scientists glued two of these prisms together, forming an arrowhead shape when seen from the side. The space, or bump, under the notch of this arrowhead and whatever is within is cloaked from view.

"The cloaks can be readily scaled up to hide larger objects," Zhang said. "It really depends on how large a calcite crystal we can find in nature. According to the literature, the largest calcite crystal has a scale of 7 meters by 7 meters by 2 meters (23 feet by 23 feet by 6.5 feet). Such a crystal would enable the construction of an invisibility cloak that can conceal object a few meters wide and at least 40 centimeters (16 inches) high."

This cloak does have a significant drawback — it depends on polarization of light. One can think of all light waves as either rippling up and down, left and right, or at any angle in between, a property known as polarization. This cloak only works for light of a specific polarization — "the bump will be seen by light of other polarizations," Zhang said.

Nevertheless, the cloak might still work in the real world, Zhang said. For instance, if the sun is low in the sky, sunlight streaming into the water "will be largely polarized, and an invisibility cloak sitting on the water floor will become invisible," he said. "There could be military applications — for example, to hide something such as submarine on the seafloor."

Also, while the bump at the bottom of the cloak is invisible, the cloak itself is still visible due to a slight reflection at the interface between the cloak and its surroundings. "This reflection can be significantly reduced by putting antireflection coating on the cloak or some other means," Zhang said.

"It is still challenging to make a 'Harry Potter' type of invisibility cloak that works in air and can hide very large objects," Zhang said. "Metamaterials could be a solution, but we will have a long way to go."

Zhang and his colleagues detailed their findings online Feb. 1 in the journal Nature Communications.

Now comes "temporal cloaking." As reported by Pete Spotts in The Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 2012:

Forget wrapping an object – say, Harry Potter – in a cloak of invisibility. How about hiding an event using time?

What may be a distant dream for this year's Indianapolis Colts has been demonstrated for the first time by a team of physicists at Cornell University.

The approach is dubbed "temporal cloaking," and it builds on experiments researchers have already conducted to demonstrate that they can hide objects from view.

Indeed, scientists had already succeeded at "spatial cloaking," which involves bending light around an object in such a way as to make it appear invisible. Temporal cloaking involves interrupting light to create a seeming gap in time in which an event can be hidden.

At this point, the time gap that the scientists created is so brief – about 50 trillionths of a second – that practical implications are barely a gleam in anyone's eye. But the researchers are interested in trying to lengthen the amount of time a beam's gap remains open, says Alexander Gaeta, who led the team reporting the results in the Jan. 5 issue of the journal Nature.

In essence, the team briefly turned off a laser beam in a way that instruments receiving the beam could not detect. An observer would have no clue that the beam had blinked, and so would have no evidence of anything that happened to the beam in that 50 trillionths of a second.

University of Rochester physicists Robert Boyd and Zhimin Shi, who are not members of Dr. Gaeta's team, liken the phenomenon to traffic at a railroad crossing.

The crossing gate falls, interrupting traffic (the laser beam) as the commuter train passes. From the perspective of the train, for a brief period there is no traffic and it can freely pass (the hidden event). Yet once the gate rises, traffic resumes and speeds up. To an observer a mile or two away, the flow of traffic shows no evidence of interruption – no evidence from traffic flow that a train had ever been there.

How did the team open a gap in the laser beam?

The researchers took advantage of the fact that when light travels through a material, different colors travel at different speeds. To alter colors in a segment of the laser beam, the researchers used a laser-based device dubbed a time lens.

Typical glass lenses bend light, changing its distribution in three-dimensional space. Time lenses, on the other hand, "do really funny things" to light, altering its traits for a defined period of time, Gaeta says.

In this case, the team's modified time lenses briefly gave two adjoining segments of the green beam a red and a blue hue. When the segments passed through a specially designed length of optical fiber, the red light slowed and the blue light accelerated.

The difference opened a gap in the beam – no light – that lasted about 50 trillionths of a second.

Coming out the other side, the researchers reversed the process, slowing the blue and speeding the red, then passing them through another time lens to returning the beam to its original green color, leaving no hint of its temporary alteration.

Well, almost no hint.

To see if their technique could hide an event from view, scientists shot a different laser beam into the gap. Usually, when two laser beams interact, the effects are easy to spot. In this case, though, the effects were more than 10 times weaker than they would have been if there had been no temporal cloaking.

For now, much work will focus on gaining a clearer understanding of the physics involved and how to take advantage of them, says Dr. Shi of Rochester.

Still, he adds, the basic physics of spatial cloaking and temporal cloaking are mathematically similar.

With the addition of a cloaking approach that "plays tricks with time" to the other approach of playing tricks with light's distribution around an object in space, "hopefully we can find an easier way to create effective cloaking."

Then there's what might be called aural cloaking. As reported by David Skoumbourdis in The Epoch Times, January 5-11, 2012 (originally posted December 29, 2011, updated January 2, 2012):

Want to play music at night without bothering neighbors? Being annoyed by noises from the highway? Scientists at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) can help.

Inspired by the concept of an invisibility cloak that guides light waves around an object making it invisible, the researchers are developing a cloaking device that can render objects completely silent. This device uses a custom-engineered plastic material that guides sound waves around an object making it inaudible.

The material has a smart microstructure consisting of two polymers, one soft and one hard, which form a millimeter-thin plate. Sound waves are guided around a circular area in the plastic plate in such a way that vibrations can neither enter nor leave this area.

“Contrary to other known noise protection measures, the sound waves are neither absorbed nor reflected,” researcher Martin Wegener said in a press release. “It is as if nothing was there.”

The technology is presently only a proof of concept, but when mature, it could be effective at soundproofing and have a wide range of applications.

The study will be published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

February 6, 2012 update: Now comes "plasmonic cloaking." As reported by David Skoumbourdis in The Epoch Times, February 2-8, 2012 (originally posted January 29, 2012, updated February 5, 2012):

The invisibility cloak has taken yet another step toward realization, with U.S. researchers cloaking a three-dimensional object from microwaves for the first time using a technique dubbed “plasmonic cloaking.”

Previous research efforts have demonstrated cloaking two-dimensional (or flat) objects using metamaterials—artificial materials engineered to have special properties—that cause light to bend around them, creating a mirage-like effect.

Plasmonic cloaking differentiates itself with the use of plasmonic metamaterial that causes the scattered light from both the metamaterial and the cloaked object to collide and cancel out. This prevents the reflected light from the object reaching our eyes, making it invisible.

“When the scattered fields from the cloak and the object interfere, they cancel each other out and the overall effect is transparency and invisibility at all angles of observation,” said study co-author Andrea Alu in a press release.

“One of the advantages of the plasmonic cloaking technique is its robustness and moderately broad bandwidth of operation, superior to conventional cloaks based on transformation metamaterials. This made our experiment more robust to possible imperfections, which is particularly important when cloaking a 3-D object in free-space,” Alu said.

The researchers tested the material by coating a 7-inch cylinder with the plasmonic metamaterial. Microwaves were directed toward the cloaked cylinder and the resultant scattering was mapped. The results confirmed the anticipated performance of the material.

Prior experiments have demonstrated that the material can work with objects of varying shape. The one challenge remaining is to test plasmonic cloaking using visible light.

“In principle, this technique could be used to cloak light; in fact, some plasmonic materials are naturally available at optical frequencies. However, the size of the objects that can be efficiently cloaked with this method scales with the wavelength of operation, so when applied to optical frequencies we may be able to efficiently stop the scattering of micrometer-sized objects,” said Alu.

Despite the present theoretical limitations, Alu believes that cloaking small objects could have a range of applications in fields such as biomedical science.

The findings were published on Jan. 25 in the New Journal of Physics.

Click on the link to see the original article, Experimental verification of three-dimensional plasmonic cloaking in free-space.

Democracy in Libya: New election law drafted

“At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood.
He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand.
He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape.
He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission.
Daniel 11:40-43

On January 1, 2012, a draft of a new electoral law for Libya was published online in Arabic. Isobel Coleman of that notorious antichrist organization, the Council on Foreign Relations--whose members include Rick Warren--offers some of the details of the new law in a post on the CFR blog, January 4, 2012:

The electoral laws will govern the election of a national constituent assembly that will replace the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC). The assembly will subsequently appoint a prime minister, form a commission to write a constitution, hold a constitutional referendum, write a new electoral law, and hold general elections to elect a permanent government.

Just fifteen pages, the electoral law is very specific on some points and uncomfortably vague on others. It makes no provisions for the formation of political parties, which were previously illegal. It also leaves unanswered the pressing question of how the country will be divided into voting districts. The law simply states, “Dividing the country into voting districts is one of the goals of organizing the elections.” It also acknowledges that population and geography should be considered when the election committee issues a decision on this. However when this issue is decided, some groups are going to be unhappy. The NTC itself struggled to balance the demands of different cities and groups in forming the current interim government. Wary of being left out of the new power structure, various tribal groups and militias continue to refuse to disarm and disband...

...Where the electoral law is specific, it raises other issues. Women are allocated 10 percent of the 200 seats in the national assembly, but this small quota has outraged human rights groups who feel that it neither reflects the extent of women’s participation in the revolution, nor the number of capable female candidates. The law also denotes twenty categories of people that are excluded from running from public office, largely with the intent to exlude people who profited from the previous regime or who were associated with Qaddafi’s family either in politics, business, or academia. Some clauses seem to target a very small number of individuals, such as the clause prohibiting, “anyone who opposed the previous regime from outside the country and then negotiated with them to take up a leading position in the state apparatus.” Others, like the clause that exludes, “anyone who was not supportive of the February 17 revolution from its beginning,” are vague enough that they could be applied widely. The law has further upset some Libyans because it stipulates that Libyans with dual nationalities must relinquish their other nationality before running in the elections. Resentment of those who left by those who stayed has plagued Afghan politics in the past decade – it looks like an issue that will fester in Libya too.

During the next two weeks, Libyans can submit their comments and suggestions for amending the law through the electoral commission’s website (the commission has also set up a Facebook page). The commission will review comments and publish a final draft of the electoral law on January 23.

It will come as no surprise to this blogger if elections in Libya produce yet another Islamist government, as has been the case in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Calgary's Muslim mayor persecutes Christians, while allowing the Occupy protesters to break the law

According to Ezra Levant in the Calgary Sun, December 31, 2011:

Calgary's Muslim mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has been held up as a symbol of the city's tolerance. Which is ironic, given his own anti-Christian bigotry in return.

Last week, Nenshi ordered city police, backed up with a ridiculously large contingent of private security, to arrest a Christian pastor and five of his congregants who had the temerity to lead a Christmas service in the public atrium of Calgary's City Hall.

Artur Pawlowski, lead pastor of Calgary's Street Church, had foolishly taken the mayor at his word when he described city hall as the city's "living room," open to all.

What Pawlowski didn't understand is that Nenshi didn't mean Christians. Nenshi meant his own co-religionists — no, not Muslims, but the leftist activists who had comprised the Occupy Calgary protests for two months with Nenshi's blessing.

Nenshi permitted that two-month trespass in a public park, claiming the "Charter" prevented him from evicting the socialists, communists, anarchists and petty criminals who inhabited downtown Calgary's Olympic Plaza...

...Here's how Nenshi defended turning a blind eye to law breaking: "It's funny, the number of people who have talked to me in the last couple of days who have said ‘the Occupy Calgary people need to get off Olympic Plaza so that all citizens can have rights to their front lawn.' And I say, OK, so all citizens except the ones you don't like should have a right to the front lawn. Because all means all in my opinion."

All means all.

Unless they're Christians having a peaceful, drug-free, sex-free celebration of Christmas in the people's "living room." Then Nenshi sends in boys with the billy clubs. For a pastor singing Christmas carols and reading Bible passages.

This isn't the first time Nenshi — or the city of Calgary — has harassed Pawlowski or his Street Church. Over the past six years, Pawlowski has literally been to court more than 70 times fighting against a series of tickets, charges and other fabricated penalties cooked up by City Hall — none of which was applied to Nenshi's favourites in the Occupy movement.

He has been charged by the City of Calgary for such horrific crimes as serving food and drink without proper permits.

But Pawlowski's mission is to bring meals to the homeless who are turned away from official shelters because they are still abusing drugs or alcohol.

Occupy didn't have permits for their food, either. But because Pawlowski does so in the name of Christian charity, Nenshi targeted him.

Don't take Pawlowski's word for it. Judge after judge has condemned the city's behaviour. One trial judge said the city bylaw officers engaged in "abusive conduct."

This year, an appeal judge said the city's bullying of Pawlowski came "precariously close to being excessive and an abuse of power."

For a few weeks, Nenshi's policy of anything goes on public property was a reprieve for Pawlowski. While Occupy Calgary was allowed to break the laws, Pawlowski was allowed to minister to the homeless, too. But now that it's cold and Occupy Calgary has gone back to their parents' basements, Pawlowski's brief enjoyment of his real Charter rights — freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom of assembly — has been curtailed...

...Nenshi is a left-wing mayor. That's not new — Calgary's last four mayors have been Liberal, as are most of its city councillors. He's a minority politician in Alberta — that's hardly new either, in the province that gave us everyone from the Famous Five suffragettes to Canada's first Hindu and Muslim MPs.

What is new is that the Muslim mayor thinks religious tolerance is a one-way street — a point he made again brutally this Christmas.

Identificational repentance hits a new low as U.S. and Swiss Amish go to Israel to apologize for their silence during the Holocaust

Here's more evidence that you can't be a satirist anymore. To quote Winston Churchill out of context, "Here, surely, is the world's record in the domain of the ridiculous and the contemptible..."

A particularly ludicrous example of what I addressed in my posts Identificational Repentance and Grovelling Christianity was reported by Jonah Mandel in the Jerusalem Post on November 28, 2010:

Representatives of the Amish community from the United States and Switzerland paid a visit to the Western Wall on Saturday night, where they asked the Jewish people’s forgiveness for their group’s silence during the Nazi extermination of Jews in the Holocaust.

Part of what made the visit special was that the Amish, a sect of the Mennonite Church that largely rejects modern technology, do not normally use contemporary forms of transportation such as the aircraft on which they made the journey to the Holy Land. It is likely that this delegation does not represent the Amish at large, rather their faction of the larger church.

But according to an announcement issued by the office of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, with whom the group met, the Amish delegates saw great importance in coming to Israel and expressing their contrition, as well as declaring their unreserved support of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

The delegation members stressed that they were neither seeking any kind of gesture from the Jewish people nor looking to proselytize – only to support Israel for the simple reason that in the past they hadn’t.

Rabinovitch was presented with various tokens at a ceremony in the Hasmonean chamber, including a parchment with a request for forgiveness in the name of the entire Amish community, along with a commitment that from now on, it would loudly voice its support of the Jewish people, especially in the wake of the expressions of hatred by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his extensions.

The delegation left Israel on Sunday.
I suppose the lives of millions of Jews in Europe could have been saved in World War II if only the Amish had spoken up for them. Just how many Amish--especially in the United States--were aware of what was happening to the Jews under Hitler? I suspect they were barely aware there was a war going on. As far as I know, the Inuit (or, to use a label now out of fashion, "Eskimos") of the Canadian Arctic also didn't speak up for the Jews during World War II, so maybe they should now go to Israel to issue an apology (which would actually be a refreshing change, since in the last 20 years, the Inuit have been successful at demanding--and getting--apologies for wrongs that were never done to them; but that's a subject that may be addressed in a future post).

Identificational repentance strikes again: University of Manitoba apologizes for sins it didn't commit

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, Romans 1:22

Anyone who has experience dealing with university bureaucracies knows that people in high positions in academia are usually spineless wimps. An egregious example is University of Manitoba President David Bernard, who has apologized to Indian students for abuses they suffered in Indian residential schools--even though the university had nothing to do with the residential schools. Jonathan Kay of the Canadian newspaper National Post offered an excellent commentary on October 27, 2011 (published as an editorial titled U Manitoba's guilty conscience in the October 28 print edition):

Sometimes, we hyper-polite Canadians just can’t resist playing to stereotype — like the one that says we’re always apologizing, even for things that aren’t our fault. Witness the University of Manitoba, whose President, David Barnard, has formally apologized to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for his institution’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, this “is believed to be the first time a Canadian university has apologized for having a role in that dark chapter in the country’s history.” That shouldn’t surprise us — because Canadian universities didn’t have any “role” to apologize for: This country’s post-secondary institutions neither funded nor operated Indian residential schools. Those roles were filled by the government and by churches.

Nevertheless, “we [the university community] have educated the people who became clergy and teachers and politicians and became involved in the [residential-school system],” Mr. Barnard told the media this week. And then, in his formal statement on Thursday, he added: “Our institution failed to recognize or challenge the forced assimilation of Aboriginal peoples and the subsequent loss of their language, culture and traditions. That was a grave mistake. It is our responsibility. We are sorry.”

Mr. Barnard’s gesture takes political correctness and White guilt into the realm of farce. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad studied at the St. Mary’s group of teaching hospitals in London, England — yet we are unaware of that institution’s president apologizing for this year’s brutal crackdown against Syrian dissidents. There is not a large university in the world whose graduates do not include criminals and bigots. Are they all expected to apologize for the misdeeds of their students? What comes next for U Manitoba, we wonder? Will Mr. Barnard apologize to the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the Manhattan Project contributions of University of Manitoba alumnus Louis Alexander Slotin (1910-1946)?

Many aspects of the residential-school system were indeed appalling: the forced separation of child from parent, episodes of brutal corporal punishment and sex abuse, untreated diseases. Yet many graduates of residential schools never had these experiences, and speak fondly of their time there — or at least acknowledge the good intentions of most instructors, and the decent education they received. These latter aspects of residential schools have become taboo to discuss: The official story now has become that the entire system was a sort of concentration camp staffed by cackling Gestapo. As a result, institutions such as the University of Manitoba have been encouraged to view themselves, ludicrously, as Canada’s answer to IG Farben.

When pressed for details about what role the university had in residential schools, Mr. Barnard was vague. The university president couldn’t even tell reporters for certain whether any current U Manitoba professor had ever taught any student who was involved in any way with a residential school. “We’re focused on moving forward,” he said.

But he’s not moving forward: The act of apologizing for something done by neither Mr. Barnard, nor by any of his colleagues, nor even by the university itself, is inherently backward-looking. It’s worse than backward-looking, in fact: The President is actively fetishizing the past, looking for guilt where none fairly exists.

What’s worse, these apologies never really please anybody — they just invite more complaints and demands.

Four years ago, for instance, an open letter of apology appeared in Quebec’s francophone newspapers, signed by the Archbishop of Quebec City, Marc Cardinal Ouellet. “I recognize that the narrow attitudes of certain Catholics, prior to 1960, favoured anti-Semitism, racism, indifference toward First Nations and discrimination against women and homosexuals,” he declared. “I also recognize that abuses of power and cover-ups have, for many, tarnished the image of the clergy … Youngsters were subject to sexual aggression by priests and religious figures, causing great injury and trauma which have broken their lives. These scandals have shaken popular confidence toward religious authorities and we understand this.”

Perhaps the Archbishop thought this would please the Catholic Church’s critics. Instead, as George Jonas noted at the time in these pages, the letter set off what the CBC described as “a storm of criticism from gay groups to women’s organizations,” which considered the apology insincere.

There always is something self-serving and posturing about such generations-late apologies: They purport to increase the moral bona fides of the person offering contrition, but on someone else’s moral dime. “Not being a Catholic, or even religious, it’s certainly not for me to raise questions about anything a leading churchman might say, but it seems to me that expressing contrition for what one didn’t do is an unauthorized claim for a reward to which one isn’t entitled,” Mr. Jonas wrote in 2007. “It’s charging someone else’s account to derive a benefit for oneself. It’s grandchildren sauntering into history’s apothecary to buy a bottle of forgiveness, saying: ‘charge it to our grandfather.’ Sorry, but grandfather may not acknowledge the debt. (Mine certainly wouldn’t.) One can meaningfully apologize only for oneself, whether one is a person, a nation or a generation.”

If Mr. Barnard has done some nasty thing personally, out with it. But since, to our knowledge, he hasn’t, he should keep his all-too-Canadian, all-too-guilty apologies to himself. They do nothing to honour his school, or remedy the past historical wrongs with which his university is only obliquely connected.

Go here to see the transcript of Dr. Bernard's apology, and here for a question and answer session between Dr. Bernard and Kathryn Blaze Carlson of the National Post.
I've already made my position on such things clear in my posts Identificational Repentance and Grovelling Christianity. I recently sent a long-overdue email (which may be the basis of a future post) to certain "journalists" and Canadian government leaders setting the record straight on the Conservative Harper government's 2010 apology for the relocation of Inuit people from Port Harrison, Quebec to Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay, Northwest Territories in the 1950s. Lives were saved, and there was nothing to apologize for, but the Conservative Harper government issued an apology (thereby turning actual heroes into official criminals)--which is the number one reason--of many--why that party has permanently lost my vote.

Democracy in Tunisia and Morocco produces Islamist governments

While much attention has been paid to the recent elections in Egypt, the recent elections in Tunisia and Morocco have gone relatively unnoticed.

As reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation on October 27, 2011:

Tunisia's moderate Islamist Ennahda party has won the country's first democratic elections after the Arab Spring uprisings, officials say.

Official results show Ennahda won more than 41% of the vote, securing 90 seats in the 217-member parliament.

Ennahda has already said it wants to form a new government within a month.

Violent protests broke out in the central town of Sidi Bouzid after the election results were announced, witnesses say.

Reports say police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of people. They were protesting against the cancellation of seats won by the Popular List party in six electoral districts because of "financial irregularities".

The Popular List party, led by a businessman, had won a number of seats in Sidi Bouzid.

The town is the birthplace of the uprising that erupted nine months ago, after a young unemployed man set himself on fire. The uprising led to President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali being thrown out of office.

Reassuring investors

Tunisia's election chief Kamel Jandoubi presented the results of last Sunday's poll at a news conference in Tunis on Thursday night.

We will continue this revolution to realise its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, developing and prosperous... Tunisia is for everyone”

Mr Jandoubi said that the Congress for the Republic (CPR) - the country's biggest secularist party - was the runner-up in the elections with nearly 14%, winning 30 seats in parliament.

The leftist Ettakatol party came third with almost 10%, giving them 21 seats.

Ennahda, which was banned under the former regime, says it has modelled itself on the governing AK party in Turkey, another Muslim-majority country which has remained a secular state.

Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi pledged on Thursday the rights of every Tunisian would be protected by the new authorities.

"We will continue this revolution to realise its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, developing and prosperous, in which the rights of God, the Prophet, women, men, the religious and the non-religious are assured because Tunisia is for everyone," Mr Ghannouchi told a crowd of supporters, Reuters reports.

Ennahda has sought to reassure secularists and investors, nervous about the prospect of Islamists holding power in one of the Arab world's most liberal countries, by saying it would not ban alcohol, stop tourists wearing bikinis on the beaches or impose Islamic banking.

Foreign tourism is a major source of revenue for Tunisia.

But despite the reassurances, Ennahda's victory is causing concern in some parts of Tunisia, who fear the party could later change their policies, the BBC's Chloe Arnold reports.

Ennahda has put forward its number two, Secretary General Hamadi Jebali, as the next prime minister. Coalition talks with the CPR and Ettakatol parties have already begun.

Mr Jebali, 62, is an engineer by training and a former journalist. He was a co-founder of Ennahda.

The polls were Tunisia's first democratic elections, and followed the fall of President Ben Ali, who was overthrown in January after mass demonstrations. He had been in power for 23 years.

A coalition government has been formed, as reported by The Associated Press on November 22, 2011:

The main winners of Tunisia's elections have announced the shape of the country's interim government ahead of the first meeting of its newly-elected assembly.

On 25 October, Tunisians elected a body to write a new constitution nine months after they overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising.

As the country that set off the wave of pro-democracy movements that engulfed the Arab region, Tunisia's efforts to build a democracy are being closely watched around the world.

The Islamist Ennahda Party won the most seats and partnered with the liberal Congress for the Republic and the left-of-centre Ettakatol Party to form a ruling coalition and divide up the top posts between them.

Ennahda will take the powerful prime minister's position while veteran rights activist Moncef Marzouki will become the interim president.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar of Ettakatol will head the assembly, which has a year to write the constitution before new elections are held.

The three leaders did not elaborate on who would fill the remaining government posts but said that they would also go to prominent figures of civil society.

A number of ministers from the outgoing transitional government will also appear in the government.

The plan for the new government will be presented on Tuesday to the inaugural meeting of the new council, which will first vote on the new president, who will then appoint the prime minister and ask him to form a government.

The coalition holds a comfortable majority of 139 seats in the 217-member body.

The North African country of 10 million people has been essentially a one-party state in the half-century since it won its independence from France.

A month later, elections were held in Morocco. As reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation on November 27, 2011:

Morocco's moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) has won the most seats in Friday's parliamentary elections, final results confirm.

The interior ministry said the PJD took 107 out of 395 seats, giving it the right to lead a government.

Its likely coalition partner, the nationalist Istiqlal party, came second, with 60 seats.

The poll is part of reforms which King Mohamed VI hopes will defuse protests prompted by the Arab Spring.

"This is a clear victory, but we will need alliances in order to work together," PJD secretary-general Abdelilah Benkirane told the AFP news agency after the official results were announced.

Under a new constitution adopted in July, King Mohamed must now appoint the prime minister from the party which wins the most seats, rather than naming whomever he pleases.

But the king still has the final say on issues of defence, security and religion.

'Victory for democracy'

Morocco's current Prime Minister, Abbas Al Fassi, said on Saturday his Istiqlal party was ready to enter into a coalition with the PJD.

"The PJD's victory is a victory for democracy," he told Reuters.

It comes a month after the moderate Islamist Ennahda party won elections in nearby Tunisia.

The PJD has said it will promote Islamic finance. However, it has avoided focusing on issues such as alcohol and headscarves for women, in a country which attracts large numbers of Western tourists.

Historian and political analyst Maati Monjib told the Associated Press that Moroccans linked Islam and political dignity.

"There is a big problem of dignity in the Arab world and the people see the Islamists as a way of getting out of the sense of subjugation and inferiority towards the West."

'Strong signal'

The Interior Ministry said 45.4% of the electorate had turned out to vote.

About 13.5 million Moroccans are eligible to vote. Although the turnout was an improvement on the 37% who took part in the 2007 election, it was less than the 51.6% in 2002.

The pro-reform February 20 movement, responsible for the protests staged just before the king announced his plans to reform the constitution, had called for a boycott of the vote.

"This [low turnout] sends a strong signal to authorities that Moroccans are not buying the proposed reforms," Najib Chawki, an activist with the movement, told Reuters.

"We will not give up until our demands are met," he added.

See also my previous post on King Mohammed's offer to give up some of his powers. Under Mohammed VI and his predecessor, Hassan II, Morocco has had a reputation for tolerance toward Jews and Christians. Let's hope and pray that this will continue.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Democracy in Egypt may endanger peace with Israel

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Psalms 122:6

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. Zechariah 2:8

I apologize in advance if I'm guilty of overgeneralizing. However:
The people labelled as neoconservatives tend to be disproportionately Jewish and primarily loyal to the interests of the state of Israel, to the point of championing other countries' involvement in wars that are primarily in the interests of Israel (see, for example, such publications as Commentary and the National Post). The early neocons were disillusioned leftists, Trotskyists who believed in perpetual revolution. As neocons, they support global democratic revolution, and have been the among the most enthusiastic supporters of the so-called "Arab Spring," where dictatorial governments have been uprooted and replaced with democratic elections.

I used to be generally sympathetic with the views of neoconservatives (I often photocopied articles from Commentary) until about 1995 and after, when I stopped equating democracy with freedom. Arno Froese recognized the dangers of democracy, and wrote a book, published in 1997, titled How Democracy Will Elect the Antichrist. The neocons have forgotten or ignored the history of western nations, where government has risen from a Christian worldview, and rights of minorities and dissenters have been protected. In an Islamic society, democracy may very well end up electing Islamist governments, which do not permit dissent or respect the rights of minorities. It doesn't seem to have occurred to neocons that a major reason western governments traditionally have supported Arab dictators was to prevent the existence of Islamist governments (of course, the dictatorial governments supported by western nations tended to operate in accord with the interests of those western nations rather than the interests of their own people, which helped to spur the popularity of Islamist movements). There's a darkly humourous irony in the neocons' support of democracy resulting in governments that are hostile to Israel.

From Egypt comes news that the Muslim Brotherhood, the leading party after three rounds of parliamentary elections, may submit the Camp David Accords--the 1979 peace treaty with Israel signed by the undemocratic regime of President Anwar Sadat--to approval in a referendum. There's always been opposition in Egypt to the Camp David Accords, and it was the lack of democracy that prevented that opposition from making headway. As reported by Jack Khoury of Haaretz, January 1, 2012:

The Muslim Brotherhood movement may bring the fate of Egypt's peace treaty to a referendum, the Islamist factions said on Sunday, adding that there wasn't any chance that the movement will recognize Israel.

Results from Egypt's recent parliamentary vote, which saw considerable gains for Islamist factions such as the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party and the radical Salafi movement's Al-Nour Party, have caused some to question the future of Israel's 1979 peace treaty with its neighbor to the south.

Addressing this issue on Sunday, the deputy chief of the Muslim Brotherhood Rashad al-Bayoumi told London's Al-Hayat newspaper that Egypt may choose to revise its peace treaty with Israel, hinting at the possibility that the pact's future could be determined through a referendum.

Al-Bayoumi emphasized that the Islamist movement would respect all of the international agreements to which Egypt is signatory, adding, however, that each side had the right to review the peace deal, and that the Egyptian people have yet to speak their mind.

"We weren't party to the peace treaty, it was signed away from the Egyptian people and thus the people must have its say," the Muslim Brotherhood official said.

Referring to the issue of recognizing Israel, al-Bayoumi said that the Muslim Brotherhood was not required to recognize Egypt's neighbor to the north, saying that Israel was an "occupying entity and we will not allow anyone of our members to meet with an Israeli."

"I won't allow myself to meet with a criminal and there's no chance that we'll cooperate with Israel," the Egyptian official said.

Last week, the Iranian semi-official Fars news agency quoted top Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei as saying that the future of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt was at the center of a recent and secret round of talks between U.S. officials and members of the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

"The negotiations were completely secret and confidential," ElBaradei told Fars, adding that what the ruling military indicated "said was that the talks were about bilateral and mutual relations, but I believe that Americans wanted to ensure that the deals signed between Egypt and Israel will remain intact if Islamists ascend to power."

Speaking to Egyptian media on the subject last week, new Israeli envoy to Egypt Yaakov Amitai was asked if he was concerned about the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He replied that he did not wish to get involved in Egypt's internal affairs and needed to study the situation further.

Until now, the Israeli government has not attempted to open official contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Jerusalem official's comments are unusual in light of the Brotherhood's failure to recognize Israel.

However, representatives of the Islamic movement have told American diplomats that the group did not intend to seek the revocation of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.
Let us pray that peace between Israel and Egypt will continue, even if it may be temporary. A lasting peace, when Egypt will worship the true God, will come when the Lord returns, as prophesied in Isaiah:

In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD.
And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it.
And the LORD shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
Isaiah 19:19-25

HT: Vox Popoli

Democracy in Egypt may be bad news for Copts

As I stated in my other post on democracy in Egypt:

The people labelled as neoconservatives tend to be disproportionately Jewish and primarily loyal to the interests of the state of Israel...The early neocons were disillusioned leftists, Trotskyists who believed in perpetual revolution. As neocons, they support global democratic revolution, and have been the among the most enthusiastic supporters of the so-called "Arab Spring," where dictatorial governments have been uprooted and replaced with democratic elections...

...The neocons have forgotten or ignored the history of western nations, where government has risen from a Christian worldview, and rights of minorities and dissenters have been protected. In an Islamic society, democracy may very well end up electing Islamist governments, which do not permit dissent or respect the rights of minorities. It doesn't seem to have occurred to neocons that a major reason western governments traditionally have supported Arab dictators was to prevent the existence of Islamist governments (of course, the dictatorial governments supported by western nations tended to operate in accord with the interests of those western nations rather than the interests of their own people, which helped to spur the popularity of Islamist movements).

As reported by Matthew Fisher in the National Post, November 26, 2011:

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - Looking out at the Mediterranean Sea from this ancient port city's dilapidated Corniche, the chaos and political violence of Cairo seems a world away, rather than a two-hour trip by train.

But the Pearl of the Mediterranean, as Alexandria still styles itself, has all of the capital's problems and then some on the eve of the first round of several months of voting for the first parliament since strongman Hosni Mubarak was deposed nine months ago...

...Egypt's always potentially explosive religious fault line between its Muslim majority and its large Coptic Orthodox Christian minority feels more ominous here than elsewhere.

"This used to be the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city in the country, but it has been slowly fading for more than 20 years," said businessman and blogger Mohammad Hanou. "It has become poorer and more conservative. The conservatives are not only Muslims. There are conservative Copts, too. But their differences need a trigger - an event."

One of those flashpoints occurred at a midnight mass marking the beginning of 2011 when a homemade bomb exploded at the front of the al-Qiddissin (Saints) Church. Twenty-three worshippers died and nearly 100 were injured.

That act of violence was followed by a sporadic acts on churches across the country. It is one of the reasons why Copts fret about the potential electoral successes of the Muslim Brotherhood and their more extreme allies, the Salafis, whose Saudi-like puritanical ideas about Islam are popular in Alexandria's slums.

"Many Muslims are tolerant and feel free to elect Christian parliamentarians," said Hany Mikhail Botros, a prominent Copt businessman who was only five metres away from the blast and lost his future daughter-in-law and many close friends in the attack.

Proof of this tolerance, he said, was that many Muslims personally contacted him to express their sorrow after the New Year's bombing.

"I can even say that some Muslims fight more for our rights than we do ourselves," Botros said as he looked up at a wall in the church with photographs of those who died in the bombing.

There was, however, inevitably, a "but" coming as Botros continued his reflections.

"But such turmoil has always existed under the surface here. Kids in some primary schools are actually taught to hate Christians. After this year's revolution such sentiments began to come out more."

Alexandria was once the largest Jewish city in the world, but only a handful of Jews live here today. Whether a similar fate may befall the Copts is a subject that is not much discussed in public but it is at the back of many minds.

"Do we have a Plan B? No," Botros said. "We could live overseas and I have the chance to do that, but I do not see that as a solution. I really love this country and I am not only making a speech."

Religion is such an emotive topic that there has never been a reliable census of how many Muslims and Christians there are in Egypt. Copts claim they number about 15 million and make up about 20 per cent of the population. Many Muslims reckon that the true percentage of Copts is only eight or 10 per cent...

..."If the Islamists gain power it won't be good and not only for us but for all Egyptians," said Father Mina Adel, who leads prayers at al-Qiddissin Church. "This is because some in the Brotherhood and some Salafis do not properly understand the Koran. They want to use religion to abuse people. They oppose freedom.

"When they see a woman uncovered, as Christian woman are, they tell her to cover head when it is none of their business."

Whatever transpired, Adel said that God would protect him. There were also, nevertheless, secular reasons why he was optimistic about the Copts' future.

"Such conservative ideas can still exist in the Egyptian desert," he said. "But we are in an Internet age where we are connected to and part of a global village where information is always available."

"What I think that it will be fragmented poll and that the people in the middle - the large group that is not Islamist or secular - will have control," said Hanou, the businessman and blogger.

"This group is heavily influenced by the Islamists right now, but they could shift. Most of these young people do not want to grow beards or go to the mosque. Their weak point until now is that they are fundamentally religious but they will rebel if somebody tells them how they should live.”

The results of the first round of voting in the Egyptian parliamentary elections, as reported by The Associated Press, December 4, 2011:

Islamists captured more than 60 percent of the vote for party lists in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, according to results released Sunday.

The tallies offer only a partial indication of how the new parliament will look. There are still two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country's 27 provinces over the coming month and runoff elections on Monday and Tuesday to determine almost all of the seats allocated for individuals in the first round. But the grip of the Islamists over the next parliament appears set, particularly considering their popularity in provinces voting in the next rounds.

The High Election Commission said the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party garnered 36.6 percent of the 9.7 million valid ballots cast for party lists. The Nour Party, a more hardline Islamist group, captured 24.4 percent.

The strong Islamist showing worries liberal parties, and even some religious parties, who fear the two groups will work to push a religious agenda. It has also left many of the youthful activists behind the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February feeling that their revolution has been hijacked.

Since Mubarak's ouster, the groups that led the uprising and Islamists have been locked in a fight over the country's new constitution. The new parliament will be tasked, in theory, with selecting a 100-member panel to draft the new constitution. But adding to tensions, the ruling military council that took over from Mubarak has suggested it will choose 80 of those members, and said parliament will have no say in naming a new government...

...The Brotherhood has emerged as the most organized and cohesive political force in these elections. But with no track record of governing, it is not yet clear how they will behave in power. The party has positioned itself as a moderate Islamist party that wants to implement Islamic law without sacrificing personal freedoms, and has said it will not seek an alliance with the more radical Nour party.

The ultraconservative Salafis who dominate the Nour Party are newcomers to the political scene. They had previously frowned upon involvement in politics and shunned elections. They espouse a strict interpretation of Islam similar to that of Saudi Arabia, where the sexes are segregated and women must be veiled and are barred from driving. Its members say laws contradicting religion can't be passed.

Egypt already uses Islamic law, or Shariah, as the basis for legislation. However, laws remain largely secular as Shariah does not cover all aspects of modern life.

If the Muslim Brotherhood chooses not to form an alliance with the Salafis, the liberal Egyptian Bloc - which came in third with 13.4 percent of the votes - could counterbalance hard-line elements...

...The elections, which began Nov. 28, are the first since Mubarak's ouster and the freest and fairest in Egypt's modern history.

Turnout of around 60 percent was the highest in living memory as few participated in the heavily rigged votes under Mubarak.

The ballots are a confusing mix of individual races and party lists, and the Sunday results only reflect the party list performance for less than a third of the 498-seat parliament.

Another liberal list, the Wafd Party, received 7.1 percent, while the moderate Islamist Wasat or Centrist Party took 4.3 percent.

The final shape of the parliament will not be announced before January.

The next step in the complex process, a round of runoffs between more than 100 individual candidates competing in the first round for around 50 seats, is set for Monday and Tuesday.

Not everyone who supported the "Arab Spring" revolution in Egypt is pleased with the way things have gone, if this post from the blog Rantings of a Sandmonkey is any indication.

The latest news from the second day of the third round of voting, as reported by Tom Perry of Reuters on January 4, 2012:

CAIRO, Jan 4 (Reuters) - The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood was edging on Wednesday towards a dominant role in Egypt's first free parliament in decades, but said it would not impose its will over a new constitution and would work with all political rivals on the blueprint.

Egyptians went to the polls for a second day in the final stage of the election for the assembly's lower house, the first free legislative vote since military officers overthrew the monarchy in 1952.

The vote is part of the ruling army council's plan to hand power to civilians before July, ending their turbulent interregnum that began with the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February in a popular uprising.

Welcomed then as heroes who helped nudge the unpopular, autocratic leader from office, the generals now face anger over their handling of protests that left 59 dead since mid-November and an economic crisis that is worsening the plight of the poor.

Raids last week on non-government organisations monitoring the vote by police who sought evidence of foreign funding for political parties have incensed rights activists and drawn a rebuke from Egypt's long-time ally the United States.

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has led after two of the three rounds of voting and the rise of Islamist parties in the poll has prompted Western concern for the future of Egypt's close ties to Washington and peace with Israel.

Founded in 1928, the Brotherhood is Egypt's best organised political force, emerging stronger than others from three decades of autocratic rule under Mubarak. The new parliament will pick a 100-member assembly to write a new constitution.

"The party's winning of the majority in the new parliament does not mean going it alone in writing the constitution without consideration for the rights of other Egyptians, or ignoring the political forces which did not get a majority or failed in the parliamentary elections," said FJP head Mohamed Mursi.

"All political forces and intellectuals in Egypt, regardless of their political and religious allegiances, will take part in writing the constitution," said Mursi, whose comments were published on the Muslim Brotherhood's website on Tuesday.

The more hardline Islamist al-Nour Party has come second in the voting so far. It is a Salafi group promoting a strict interpretation of Islamic law and its success has raised the prospect of a chamber dominated by Islamists.

Some analysts believe, however, that the Muslim Brotherhood could seek to build a coalition with secular groups.

That could ease concerns at home and in the West about the rise of the Islamists in a country whose economy is propped up by tourism.

The staggered lower house election concludes with a run-off vote on Jan. 10 and 11, with final results expected on Jan. 13. Voting for the upper house will be held in January and February.


The election will produce the first Egyptian parliament with popular legitimacy in decades, raising the possibility of friction with the army.

The army has been the focus of the street protests, held by activists who accuse it of seeking to hold on to power and privilege. The generals say they do not want to govern, but some still doubt their intentions.

In an echo of the Mubarak years, four activists were detained on Tuesday for putting up posters critical of the military council, activists and a source in the public prosecutor's office said.

They were detained while hanging posters comparing images of soldiers after the 1973 war with Israel with pictures of troops beating women in Cairo during protests last month, said Amr Ezz, an organiser of the April 6 movement to which the four belonged.

Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer, said the arrests were part of a trend including raids last week against 17 pro-democracy and human rights groups.

The United States criticised the authorities over the raids, part of what Cairo said was an investigation into foreign funding. The United States said Egypt had failed to resolve the stand-off over the U.S.-backed non-governmental organisations.

"We had been assured by leaders within the Egyptian government that this issue would be resolved ... it is frankly unacceptable to us that that situation has not been returned to normal," a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said.

She said it appeared Egypt's crackdown on pro-democracy NGOs was driven by "Mubarak hold-overs who don't understand how these organisations operate in a democratic society".
July 13, 2013 update: It comes as no surprise to this blogger that Muslim extremists in Egypt are blaming Christians for the recent downfall of the government of President Mohammed Morsi. As reported by Ben Hubbard of The New York Times News Service, July 11, 2013 (updated, July 12, 2013):

The military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi has unleashed a new wave of violence by extremist Muslims against Christians whom they blame for having supported the calls to overthrow Morsi, Egypt’s first Islamist elected leader, according to rights activists.

Since Morsi’s ouster July 3, the activists say, a priest has been shot dead in the street, Islamists have painted black X’s on Christian shops to mark them for arson and angry mobs have attacked churches and besieged Christians in their homes. Four Christians were reported slaughtered with knives and machetes in one village last week.

The attacks have hit across the country, in the northern Sinai Peninsula, in a resort town on the Mediterranean coast, in Port Said along the Suez Canal and in isolated villages in upper Egypt...

...Many Christians were alarmed at the victories of Islamists in elections after the 2011 revolution that overthrew Morsi’s autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Although Christians by no means represented a majority of the anti-Morsi rallies that preceded Morsi’s downfall, Christians did participate in the campaigns to remove Morsi that so deeply antagonized his supporters.

“They thought Christians played a big role in the protests and in the army’s intervention to topple Morsi, so this is revenge for that,” said Ishaq Ibrahim, who has documented the violence for the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, or EIPR.

Many Islamist leaders blamed Christians and holdovers from the Mubarak era for the mass protests against Morsi that took place on the June 30 anniversary of his swearing-in. Even rank-and-file Islamists maintaining a sit-in in a Cairo suburb calling for Morsi’s return often have spoken spitefully of what they described as Christian collusion.

In some places, Christians were warned not to participate in the anti-Morsi protests. Fliers distributed in the upper Egypt province of Minya, documented by EIPR, warned that “one liter of gas can light up your gold, wood, plumbing, tractor, carpentry shops, buses, cars, houses, churches, schools, agricultural fields and workshops.”

They were signed “people who care for the country.”

After Morsi’s ouster, Islamist mobs in the village of Dagala in that province looted one church, burned a building belonging to another and surrounded Christian homes, shattering their widows with rocks and clubs, EIPR said.

After one Christian man shot at the attackers from his roof, they dragged his wife from the house, beat her up and shot her. She is currently hospitalized, according to EIPR.

“The police came the day after the events, and they didn’t do anything,” Ibrahim said. “People prevented the fire engines from coming in so they couldn’t do anything.”

In the village of Naga Hassan near Luxor, Muslim mobs invaded Christian homes and set them alight while besieging other Christians in their homes. Security forces arrived to evacuate the women but left the men, four of whom were subsequently stabbed and beaten to death, Ibrahim said. One of them, Emile Nessim, was a local organizer for the tamarrod, or “rebellion,” campaign that collected signatures and organized mass protests against Morsi.

Dozens of Christian homes were reported burned in the Naga Hassan attacks, and most of the village’s Christians have fled or are believed to be hiding in the local church.