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Only Christian prayers allowed says local American politician

The Charlotte Observer

A Lincoln County commissioner says non-Christian prayer is not welcome in government meetings that he is a part of and that he plans on keeping it that way.

Lincoln County Board of Commissioners Chairman Carrol Mitchem told WBTV that any prayer from a “minority religion” would not be heard before county meetings if he has a say in the matter.

“Other religions, or whatever, are in the minority. The U.S. was founded on Christianity,” Mitchem said. “I don’t believe we need to be bowing to the minorities. The U.S. and the Constitution were founded on Christianity. This is what the majority of people believe in, and it’s what I’m standing up for.”

WBTV contacted Mitchem after a report was published in the Lincoln Times-News. In that report, Mitchem was asked about Rowan County, which was ordered earlier in the week by a federal court to stop opening meetings with a sectarian prayer. A federal judge ruled the Rowan County Board of Commissioners violated the Constitution when they held prayers before public meetings that were specific to one religion – Christianity.

“Changing rules on the way the United States was founded, Constitution was founded (I don’t like),” Mitchem told the paper. “I don’t need no Arab or Muslim or whoever telling me what to do or us here in the county what to do about praying. If they don’t like it, stay the hell away.”

Mitchem echoed that sentiment to WBTV on Friday.

“I ain’t gonna have no new religion or pray to Allah or nothing like that,” Mitchem said. He added that anyone who doesn’t want to hear a Christian prayer can leave and “wait until we’re done praying.

“We’re fighting Muslims every day. I’m not saying they’re all bad,” Mitchem said. “They believe in a different God than I do. If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. But, they don’t need to be telling us, as Christians, what we need to be doing. They don’t need to be rubbing our faces in it.”

Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, said such attitudes go against the principles on which the country was founded. “If you don’t believe the rights of the minority are equal to the rights of the majority, then you are against what America stands for,” Hough said. “That’s why we live in a democratic republic.”

Muslims, he added, “pray to the God of Abraham, the same God Christians and Jews pray to.”

In addition to Judaism and Christianity, Hough added, “Prophet Mohammed and Islam are recognized as being influences on some of the founding fathers.”

Lincoln County Commissioner Alex Patton told the Lincoln News-Times that until about six months ago, he or former commissioner Carl Robinson gave the invocation before the council meetings. Since then, a couple of religious leaders from the county have been rotating in to give the prayer.

Patton also told the paper that he didn’t think anyone would be denied the opportunity to give the invocation because of their beliefs. He said that it was “simply a matter of Lincoln County having 102 churches and all 102 representing the Christian faith.”

“I am a Christian, but I do not agree with commissioner Mitchem,” Patton told WBTV by email. “Our country was founded on freedom of religion. All Muslims are not bad, just as all Christians are not good.”

Patton said Mitchem has “just exposed our county to potential litigation, which was needless.

Pro-Ukraine rebels want to form a ‘Christian Taliban’ movement

Al jazeera

Vitaly Chornly looked ominous as he stared across the room dressed all in black, his long jet-black beard contrasting sharply against his pale features.

He sat up straight, crossed his legs, folded both hands on one knee, and began to explain the need for a 13th century crusade against Russia.

Chornly, a former molecular biologist, is the ideological officer for the St Mary’s battalion, a pro-Ukrainian militia group fighting on the front lines against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Fighters of St Mary’s, the de facto fighting wing of the extreme-right Ukrainian political party Bratsvo, have become embroiled in the war in the Donbas region as self-styled, modern-day crusaders.

Sitting in the basement of St Mary’s Kiev headquarters, Chornly claimed the battalion is Christianity’s equivalent to the Taliban – and its fighters are holy warriors.

“We are creating the Christian Taliban here. Our main ideology is faith, and this is the advantage we have,” Chornly told Al Jazeera.

“The enemy – the forces of darkness – they have all the weapons, they have greater numbers, they have money. But our soldiers are the bringers of European traditions and the Christian mindset of the 13th century. We represent the side of light against the dark side. Putin supporters are representatives of the devil.”

A cross and a sword

While Chornly insisted he does not support certain tactics used by the Taliban, such as suicide bombings, the targeting of civilians, and lack of religious tolerance, the militia does admire the way the group has been able to face powerful enemies and continuously battle despite smaller numbers and resources.

Their greatest praise for the Taliban, however, lies in the fighters’ complete devotion to their religion and the way they channel it into their fight, Chornly said.

“The main thing we admire from the Taliban is their constant faith in God. They came across terrible conditions and war and still they continued their struggle and they were successful. Faith is much stronger to fight with than political ideas.”

The Taliban have faith behind them, Chornly exclaimed frequently, and it’s that which allows them to fight and win against strong enemies.

The commander of St Mary’s, Borgese “Alex” Serediuk, revels in the “Christian Taliban” label.

Not only does the St Mary’s battalion have the same strength of faith as the Taliban, he claimed, but it illustrates that the Christianity he believes in can contain violence, and that his religion does not just consist of the cross, but also the sword.

Serediuk commands 150 armed men in St Mary’s, as well as about 50 other occasional volunteer fighters.

Each is deeply religious, taking inspiration from the modern-day Taliban, as well as Christian crusaders of the 12th and 13th centuries.

Crusade to the Kremlin?

More than half of the fighters are not currently registered with the Ukrainian government, Serediuk admitted – registration is not efficient when there’s a war going on, he said.While registered fighters receive weapons issued by the Ukrainian government, unregistered ones just go to the war zone in the east with the battalion regardless and get weapons from looting enemy bodies, Serediuk told Al Jazeera.

“But still we have only enough weapons to die, but not enough to fight,” Serediuk said, insisting their successes come from their faith and character, not their equipment.

Large men in full camouflage moved in and out of the basement headquarters, gathering around the doorway of the room where Chornly and Serediuk sat. Looking anxious, Chornly stared at his watch and explained he must lead the gathering men in a group prayer.

“We aren’t many,” Chornly said. “But we are powered by religion. When you have that, you do not need men in numbers.”

As recent ceasefire negotiations between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatist forces turn towards autonomy in the eastern regions currently under separatist control, St Mary’s battalion insists they won’t back down.

“St Mary’s battalion does not answer to anyone but God,” Chornly said when asked about talks of eastern autonomy and ceasefire negotiations.

“We will continue our fight until the Kremlin is in ruins, no matter what.”

Standing up against peace and pagans

Professor Ivan Katchanovski of the University of Ottawa told Al Jazeera that although St Mary’s may be small in numbers, their armed volunteers could pose a serious threat to peace talks in the east because of their strong ideological roots and desire to fight, compared with the conscripted Ukrainian army.

“These militia and paramilitary formations have the ability and desire to break the current shaky ceasefire and continue the full-fledged civil war,” Katchanovski said. “While the numerical strength and armament of these units are much less compared to the Ukrainian army, their motivation to fight is much stronger.”

Serediuk said the Ukrainian government is scared of the militia he commands, and he remained adamant his men would not honour any lasting ceasefire – the men of St Mary’s are holy warriors who will not lie down for anyone, he said.

Political decisions that involve compromising with the separatists of Russia are not on his agenda.

Serediuk originally fought the separatists in the east as part of the Azov Battalion – a notorious far-right Ukrainian militia organised by the neo-Nazi Social-National party.

Serediuk didn’t leave the Azov because of the neo-Nazi connections, however – extreme-right ideology doesn’t bother him. What does irk him, however, is being around fighters who are not zealous in their religious convictions.

“I left the Azov because it was full of pagans. Committed Christians in the Azov were not allowed to stop to pray throughout the day – I needed a unit of Christians, a closely knit unit of committed Christian warriors. When two of three Christians gather around, they have God with them, and victory is guaranteed to be with us.”

‘Until the Kremlin falls’

Serediuk repeated the words of his ideological officer often: St Mary’s is the beginning of a Christian Taliban in Ukraine, he said.

Periodically rubbing the gnarled scaring that stretches across the top of his right hand, Serediuk stopped at his missing finger, lingering there for a while. The wound happened last August in an encounter known in Ukraine as the “Massacre of Ilovaisk”, where at least 100 pro-Ukrainian troops were surrounded by pro-Russian forces and gunned down.

Many fighters were lost in that battle, Serediuk told Al Jazeera, but Ukraine’s Christian Taliban is prepared to lose every one of their men in the name of defeating Russia.

“People have an image of a Christian as a peaceful abbot, someone sitting around lit candles,” Serediuk said.

“We are not just some faith organisation. We are the sword instead of the cross. We will fight until the Kremlin falls.”

Hindu nationalist leaders in India looking to make India a completely Hindu country

It’s funny because many Islamophobes in the west are silent about this, particularly your right wing Christian types. If it was Muslims doing this, they would be outraged and writing or speaking about it, but since it has nothing to do with Muslims clamping down on Christians, they’re suddenly silenced. This story also completely shatters their false narrative propaganda of a supposed Christian-Hindu unity against Muslims, because for Hindu nationalists in India, there is no such alliance or friendship, it only exists in the minds of bigoted right wing Christian Islamophobes in the west.

Associated Press

In small-town northern India, Muslims are offered food and money to convert to Hinduism. If that doesn’t suffice, they say they’re threatened. Across the country, the Christmas holiday is canceled for hundreds of government servants who spend the day publicly extolling the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Powerful Hindu nationalist leaders — some with close ties to Modi’s government — say they intend to ensure India becomes a completely Hindu nation.

 

But Modi himself? He has remained silent as nationalist demands have bubbled over into day-to-day politics, and amid growing fears among minority religious groups of creeping efforts to shunt them aside.

“We told him we feel insecure and fearful,” said the Rev. Dominic Emmanuel, a Roman Catholic priest who was in a delegation of religious leaders who met a few days ago with Modi. “We told him, ‘If there were just two words from your side, prime minister, we would feel so much better.'”

But according to Emmanuel, Modi dismissed the fears as media exaggeration and told the group it wasn’t his role to weigh in on every issue.

A largely Hindu country that has long proclaimed its multicultural character, India has a sizable Muslim minority, a small Christian community and even smaller pockets of other religions from Judaism to Zoroastrianism.

It’s a country where barely 2 percent of people celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, but where the day has long been set aside by families and friends — no matter their religion — for eating, drinking and gift-giving. It has been a day off from school and work as long as anyone can remember.

So when a top Modi official suggested that students come in on Christmas for lessons on “Good Governance” — a key Modi platform — anger welled up quickly. While that plan was quietly shelved, hundreds of civil servants held high-profile activities across the country on Dec. 25 to herald Modi’s governance policies.

If there was no outright anti-Christian message in these gatherings, Emmanuel says the subtext was loud and clear.

“It’s not merely undermining the festival of Christmas, but it is trying to segregate a community and its festival,” he said.

Nonsense, said Tarun Vijay, a writer, longtime supporter of Hindu causes and member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. The government activities on Christmas, he insisted, were to honor the birthday of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the last BJP prime minister.

“Was it his mistake being born on 25th December?” he asked. “Is it sacrilegious for us to celebrate his birthday on 25th December?”

Instead, Vijay accuses some of Modi’s opponents of politicizing Christmas, calling them “hate groups.”

“These are the people who are doing harm to Christianity,” he said.

The rancor is rarely just about God. Instead, it’s a complex interplay of religion and politics, as the dreams of Hindu nationalist voters combine with the after-effects of Modi’s sweeping electoral victory earlier this year.

Modi was catapulted to power on promises to develop India’s economy and root out the corruption and incompetence that had crippled the previous government.

But he had launched his political career in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a militant Hindu group that combines religious education with self-defense exercises, and the parent organization of the ruling party. The RSS has long been accused of stoking religious hatred against Muslims.

While Modi played down religious issues during the campaign, wary of alienating voters with his and his party’s reputations for Hindu nationalism, nationalist voters turned out for him in droves.

So when Modi was elected, nationalist leaders who had spent years in India’s political wilderness began pressing the government to adopt its agenda.

Just how much Modi actually supports that sprawling agenda — which includes everything from demands to rewrite school textbooks to, at the most extreme end, the expulsion of non-Hindus from India — remains unclear.

Certainly, he is sympathetic to parts of it.

In an October speech to medical professionals, for example, Modi traced parts of modern medicine back to ancient India, noting that Ganesh — the Hindu god with the head of an elephant but the body of a person — is proof that plastic surgery began in India.

“We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point in time,” he said.

India, with its population of some 1.3 billion, is about 81 percent Hindu, 13 percent Muslim and a little over 2 percent Christian. The Muslim community, in particular, has long feared Modi. In 2002, when he was the top official in the western state of Gujarat, anti-Muslim riots ripped through the region, killing at least 1,000 people. Muslim leaders and human rights groups said Modi did little to stop the violence, a charge he denies. India’s Supreme Court has said it found no evidence to prosecute him for the violence.

In the early months of Modi’s tenure as prime minister, religion rarely intruded into politics.

But in early December, right-wing Hindu groups allied with the BJP conducted a series of ceremonies to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. The events are called “homecomings,” with organizers saying they were reconverting people whose ancestors had once been Hindu.

Some of the Muslims, though, later said they’d either been paid to convert or threatened with violence if they did not. Quickly, the simmering religious issues boiled over into Parliament, with opposition lawmakers all but shutting down the legislature over charges that the prime minister had done little to stop the ceremonies.

A few days later, the government’s Christmas plans came into focus.

Amid the political fracas, major economic legislation stopped cold. That has alienated many who supported Modi for his economic agenda, and who worry that jobs and development will be pushed aside by the demands of the Hindu right.

“The ‘cultural right’ is too extreme for the middle-of-the-road voter,” Gurcharan Das, a writer and former businessman, wrote in Monday’s Times of India. “Modi has his work cut out — he must assuage the anxieties of the cultural extremists while pursuing his jobs agenda.”

Muslims in Central African Republic trapped in enclaves in fear of their lives from Christian militias

TIME

Hundreds of Muslims are trapped in enclaves in atrocious conditions in the Central African Republic, fearing attacks if they leave and blocked from fleeing abroad by the interim government, reportsHuman Rights Watch (HRW).

“Those trapped in some of the enclaves face a grim choice: leave and face possible attack from anti-balaka fighters, or stay and die from hunger and disease,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at HRW. “The government’s policy of no evacuations is absolutely indefensible.”

HRW also deplore U.N. peacekeepers for alleged complicity in hindering Muslims to seek safety. Camp leaders in the western Muslim enclaves of Yaloké, Carnot and Boda told researchers earlier this month that an estimated 1,750 people, many of them ethnic Peuhl herders, are desperate to flee.

Most of the Muslims in the west of the country escaped brutal attacks by Christian and animist anti-balaka militants between late 2013 and early 2014. More than 5,000 people were killed between December 2013 and September this year, the Associated Press reports.

Pastor wants an ‘AIDS-free’ Christmas with death for all gays

news.com

GAYS are pedophiles who should be exterminated for an AIDS-free Christmas, an anti-Semitic, Obama-hating pastor told followers on World AIDS Day.

Steven Anderson, the foot-stomping, bible-thumping pastor of Arizona’s small Faithful Word Baptist Church, says the bible states that LGBT people deserve to die for “committing an abomination.”

“Turn to Leviticus 20:13 because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS,” the married father-of-eight said in a December 1 YouTube video called ‘AIDS: the Judgement of God’.

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS.

“It was right there in the Bible all along — and they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and testing. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.”

The fundamentalist also reminded parishioners during his troubling Sunday sermon that gays are banned from his church. About 50 people turned out to hear his rant.

Anderson has caused controversy in the past for sermons demonising Jewish people and women’s involvement in church services, and calling for “socialist devil” President Barack Obama’s death.

His wife, stay-at-home mum Zsuzsanna Anderson, writes a blog about being involved in “the greatest church in the world”.

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