Archive for March 27th, 2006

A needless toll of natural disasters

Monday, March 27th, 2006

In case people haven’t noticed, there has been a spike in global natural disasters. Many try to explain this away by saying we just have better reporting methods. I maintain that it is the “birth pains” talked about in the book of Matthew. I believe we are in the end times and soon the Lord will return to collect His faithful. Will you be one of them??

WHEN A MUDSLIDE in the southern Philippines wiped out the village of Guinsaugon and killed more than 1,000 people last month, it was the latest in a seeming spike in developing world natural disasters.
The numbers impacted by recent calamities are indeed staggering. The earthquake that leveled large parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir last October killed about 75,000 people, and left some 3 million homeless. About a year earlier, the Asian tsunami caused the deaths of 230,000 people and the displacement of 1.5 million. In these two tragedies, governments, international organizations, and private individuals were asked to provide urgent assistance, and they contributed some $20 billion to relief and recovery.
he bad news is that more and more people are being affected each year by natural disasters, and most of the populations are in the developing world. Since 2000, some 1.6 billion have lost their homes or livelihoods or have suffered other damage. This continues an upward trend over the past several decades and represents a four-fold annual increase, on average, from the decade of the 1970s.
In 2004 alone, disasters caused some $100 billion in damages and impacted the lives of about 140 million people.
One might reasonably take the apocalyptic perspective and conclude that this growth in damage caused by natural disasters comes from an increase in the number and magnitude of hazards like earthquakes and hurricanes. But while greater storm severity in recent decades is one risk factor, it cannot fully explain the large increase in overall effects — especially as there is little indication of a greater incidence or severity of earthquakes and other natural hazards.
Rather, it is human behavior that is primarily responsible. Worldwide migration to coastal areas has made populations far more vulnerable to hurricanes, and nearly 50 million people worldwide face risk of flooding due to storm surges. Environmental degradation has only accentuated this problem. In some areas of Sri Lanka, for example, mangrove trees provided critical coastal defenses during the tsunami and saved many lives. But where the mangroves had been depleted, the tsunami left a path of death and destruction in its wake.
Rapid urbanization, population growth, and poverty have also contributed to increased levels of risk. There are now some 400 cities with populations of more than one million people, the overwhelming majority of which are in poor countries — where public education on disaster preparedness is in short supply and citizens have limited ability to construct homes to meet whatever building codes may exist.
The good news is that human practices and development patterns can often be altered to prevent natural hazards from becoming full-blown natural disasters. Even when practices cannot be changed completely, there are other ways to mitigate manmade risks. These may have been the most important lessons coming out of the Asian tsunami.

Read the rest here.

Islamic world indifferent to plight of Afghan Christian

Monday, March 27th, 2006

The West sure needs to wake up to islam’s true colors. Violence and death.

BEIRUT, (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya)

The story of Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman, who was arrested in Kabul after his relatives turned him in for converting from Islam to Christianity, and could be sentenced to death in accordance with Afghan law, should teach the West a lesson. It may be able to help topple an unwanted regime and bring new people to power, and even write a new constitution, but it cannot change the local mentality overnight. Western democracy cannot take root in traditional Eastern society. The West has been outraged by the plight of Rahman, but the Islamic world has hardly paid much attention to the story.
Rahman has become the first Afghan to be imprisoned for converting to another religion since the Taliban regime was forced out. He was arrested in February. On March 1, U.S. President George W. Bush, who did not know about Rahman at the time, visited Kabul, where he said, “it’s our country’s pleasure and honor to be involved with the future of this country. We’re impressed by the progress that your country is making.” Three weeks later, after the world media learned about Rahman’s plight, Bush had to explain, primarily to his fellow Americans, why he had said the above words. Indeed, how can a country, which is building democracy and has approved a constitution with the direct assistance of the West and the United States, sentence a man to death simply for converting to another religion?
This is also a serious problem for Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai. He has to justify the court’s decision in the West, which propelled him into power and is providing military and economic assistance to his country. He also needs to show to his own people that he is their leader and that he respects Afghan laws, however severe they may be.
In fact, his own legitimacy is ensured by the same constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, and says that apostates can receive the death penalty. The Afghan constitution also claims to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates the freedom of worship. But the Afghan people respect the Sharia law more, which is logical.
It was not the authorities, but Rahman’s relatives who created the problem by reporting the poor man. The West pressured Karzai to promise to free him. But how could he do so without setting the clergy against himself and how could he convince the people that he was doing the right thing? The Associated Press cited Hamidullah, the chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque as saying “The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.”
The Arabic television network Aljazeera’s website reported blitz polls in Afghanistan showing that the majority of the respondents were for executing Rahman. According to the TV channel, Afghan judges reject Western calls for freeing the man as interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Some people there were troubled by Rahman’s arrest and the possibility that he would be killed for his personal religious convictions, but the majority of Afghans live according to ancient traditions, which cannot be changed overnight. What other pillar would support Afghan society then? Even the acquittal of Rahman would not solve the problem and will mean not a step forward, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, but a case of successful interference by the West.
On the other hand, this is not only Afghanistan’s problem. The point at issue is the incompatibility of two attitudes. Those who live by modern rules cannot understand those who live according to their old traditions. Nobody would speak to cannibal tribes about human rights. We can be shocked and repulsed at their customs, and try to save their prisoners, but changing their way of thinking looks impossible. But then, can we remain silent on matters of life and death?
The Western public was outraged by the arrest of Rahman because it sensed that this decision was incompatible with the ideals of democracy in the country and that Western governments were responsible for events in Afghanistan and hence the fate of the Afghan Christian. But Islamic countries remained completely indifferent to his plight.
The only Islamic organization to report the scandal was Aljazeera. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, there are too many other problems, including human rights violations, in the Islamic world. When regarded against the backdrop of Iraqi developments, the trial of Rahman is not news at all. After all, he could save himself, but who will save Iraqis? Then, the issue of apostates in many Islamic, including Arab, countries is too painful to be discussed publicly.
“What could people think about Christian converts when Sunnis say Shiites are apostates?” asked Manal al Nahas, a journalist with the Arabic daily Al Hayat.
However, despite the complicated attitude towards converts, many Muslims, in particular in Lebanon, still think that the death penalty is a much too severe punishment in such cases. Islam and the Islamic world have many faces.
Yousef Subeidi, the Beirut representative of Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, the most influential Shiite cleric, said, “This is Afghanistan. What is there to discuss when they don’t know what Islam is? They are distorting the image of Islam. To them, the main thing is violence, which Islam does not accept.”
This opinion may be one more reason for the unwillingness of Islamic religious leaders to publicly interfere in the Afghan story: they know that their words will mean nothing to Afghan Muslims. Others prefer never to hold public disputes about Islam, especially disputes provoked by Western interference. The East has a different way of life and different problems and we can do nothing about it.

Afghan Convert May Go Free

Monday, March 27th, 2006

At least the Afgan government has some common sense. What is still very worrisome is that fact that this could happen in the first place. Islam is not a religion of peace. Never has been, never will be.

( – Afghan authorities may drop apostasy charges carrying the death penalty against Christian convert Abdul Rahman, following sustained diplomatic pressure from countries with troops deployed in the Muslim country.
Judicial officials were quoted as saying the case was being reviewed because of problems with evidence. Some reports also referred to the possibility that Rahman may be considered mentally unfit to stand trial.
The 41-year-old, who converted to Christianity while living outside the country 16 years ago, has refused to renounce his faith despite calls by prosecutors for capital punishment in line with Islamic law (shari’a).
The case galvanized Christians in the U.S. and other Western countries and drew strong rebukes from American, European, Australian and Canadian governments.
It raised anew questions about the new Afghan constitution, drafted following the downfall of the fundamentalist Taliban regime.
The constitution, which came into force early 2004, cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and says that “followers of other [non-Muslim] faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rights.”
But it also states that “no law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam.”
Shari’a requires the death penalty for any Muslim man – and in some schools of shari’a, woman – who leaves Islam for another faith and refuses to recant.
On Saturday the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI had added his voice to calls for President Hamid Karzai to free Rahman.
The pope said in a letter to the Afghan leader that dropping the criminal charges against the convert “would be the most significant contribution for our common mission to foster mutual understanding and respect among the different religions and cultures of the world.”