Hilary White

Pope Francis, other Christian leaders condemn Western intervention in Syria: warn of ‘world war’

Hilary White
Hilary White
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ROME, August 28, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis, as well as other Christian leaders in the Middle East and around Europe are sounding the alarm of a possible global conflict should the US and other western powers launch an attack on Syria.

In an interview with Vatican Radio yesterday, the Syrian Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, said that armed intervention in Syria could unleash a “world war.” 

“If there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war. That risk has returned,” he said. 

The comments follow an urgent appeal by Pope Francis this weekend for the world’s powers not to intervene in the escalating Syrian conflict. On Sunday, Pope Francis called on the international community to do everything they could to avoid military action, calling for them “to be more sensitive to this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation find a solution to a war that sows destruction and death.” 

“The increase in violence in a war between brothers, with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice that the clatter of arms may cease," he said during the Angelus. "It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.”

Bishop Audo added to Vatican Radio, “We hope that the Pope’s call for real dialogue between the warring parties to find a solution can be a first step to stop the fighting.”

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s quasi-official paper, also criticised the threats by Western powers, accusing US President Obama of pursuing a policy of “political expediency” rather “than of substance.”

Britain, France and the US are widely reported to be preparing military strikes against Syria. They argue that credible reports of the government using chemical weapons against the Islamist rebels and civilians show the government has violated international peace treaties. The matter escalated rapidly last week when workers with the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said three hospitals in the Damascus area had seen about 3,600 patients suffering from “neurotoxic symptoms,” of whom 355 had died.

The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 with uprisings in many Middle Eastern countries, largely motivated by conflict between the two main factions of Islam, Sunnis and Shias, that western media dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The Obama administration has backed the rebels, and US diplomatic hostility to the Shia Assad regime has escalated recently, despite warnings that rebels are funded and supported by the Sunni Islamic extremist group the Muslim Brotherhood, and ultimately Al-Qaeda. Reports have increased daily of attacks by rebel fighters against Christian Syrian civilians, their homes, schools and institutions. 

While refugees, both Muslim and Christian continue to pour out of the country into refugee centres in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, Christian leaders around the world are calling on the Obama administration and the British government to recognise and oppose the threat to the remaining Christian population in Syria. Reports on the ground have said that the country has become a magnet for Islamic extremists, many from Europe, who are carrying out a violent pogrom against Christians.

The Syrian-born Patriarch Gregoire III Laham has echoed Bishop Audo’s warning of a “world war”. He told Catholic News Service by telephone today from the Patriarchate’s summer residence in Lebanon, “Enough with the intervention!” 

“It is fueling hatred, fueling criminality, fueling inhumanity, fueling fundamentalism, terrorism -- all these things are the fruit of intervention. Enough!” He added, “Surely, it will spread like a world war.” 

“The Holy Father was very clear on Aug. 25," the patriarch said. “This is the real voice to be heard, and not the voice of weapons and interventions and of warships.”

“Instead of trying to change the (Syrian) government, help the government to change. We are all for change. We are all for reforms. But not in this way, with blood.” 

Laham, who is the Patriarch of the Melkite Catholics, (in canonical union with the See of Rome) of Antioch of the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem, repeated the warning to AsiaNews, saying, “We must listen to the Pope’s appeal for peace … Syria needs stability.”

“If western countries want to create true democracy then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between Christians and Muslims, not with weapons. This attacked being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two years of war. This will destroy the Arab world's trust in the West.” 

The planned attack, he said, will affect the whole Syrian population, saying this outcome was no less serious than the use of chemical weapons. It will sink the area into total war, which, he said, the Islamists will win, reducing the country to small, constantly warring enclaves, and pushing the remaining Christians out.

“The disappearance of the Christians,” he said, “is a danger not only for Syria, but for all of Europe.” The presence of Christians in the Middle East, he called “the essential condition for a moderate Islam, which exists thanks to the Christians.” 

“If we leave, there can be no democracy in Syria. This is supported also by the Muslims themselves, who fear the Islamist’s madness. Many say that they cannot live where there are no Christians.” 

The Patriarch continued, asking, “What or who have led Syria to this thin red line, this point of no return? Who created this hell in which our people have been living for months?”

“Every day…Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them, even the U.S. has decided to send in more weapons.” 

The calls for restraint from Catholic leaders was joined today by the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, accused the US, “as was the case in Iraq,” of “acting as an international executioner.” Hilarion told AsiaNews that the US is acting without the endorsement of the UN, adding, “They want to decide the fate of a whole country of millions of inhabitants.” 

“Once again, thousands of lives will be sacrificed on the altar of an imaginary democracy.” Among these victims, he added, are “Christians, about whose fate no one cares.” These are at “risk of becoming hostages to the situation and the main victims of radical extremist forces, who, with the help of the United States, will come to power.” 

The Russian government has also strongly opposed Western intervention. Tonight a statement from the Foreign Ministry said that US-led attacks would have “catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa”. The statement said the US is bypassing the UN Security Council, and creating “artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention”. 

The Syrian government admitted in 2012 to having stockpiled both chemical and biological weapons, including VX, Sarin and mustard gas, claiming that they were for use only against foreign aggressors. The country is signatory to the 1925 Geneva Protocol which banned chemical weapons following the horrors of gas attacks in WWI. 

Meanwhile, reports are rapidly escalating of Islamic attacks on Christian churches, schools and other institutions in Syria and other places in the Middle East, most notably in Egypt. The Associated Press reported that as of today, 638 people are confirmed dead, and nearly 4,000 injured in Egypt.  

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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