Syria: Giant Jesus Statue Put Up Between Warring Factions On Cherubim Mountain

BEIRUT (AP) — In the midst of a conflict rife with sectarianism, a giant bronze statue of Jesus has gone up on a Syrian mountain, apparently under cover of a truce among three factions in the country’s civil war.

Jesus stands, arms outstretched, on the Cherubim mountain, overlooking a route pilgrims took from Constantinople to Jerusalem in ancient times. The statue is 12.3 meters (40 feet) tall and stands on a base that brings its height to 32 meters (105 feet), organizers of the project estimate.

That the statue made it to Syria and went up without incident on Oct. 14 is remarkable. The project took eight years and was set back by the civil war that followed the March 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Christians and other minorities are all targets in the conflict, and the statue’s safety is by no means guaranteed. It stands among villages where some fighters, linked to al-Qaida, have little sympathy for Christians.

So why put up a giant statue of Christ in the midst of such setbacks and so much danger?

Because “Jesus would have done it,” organizer Samir al-Ghadban quoted a Christian church leader as telling him.

syria jesus statue

The backers’ success in overcoming the obstacles shows the complexity of civil war, where sometimes despite the atrocities the warring parties can reach short-term truces.

Al-Ghadban said that the main armed groups in the area — Syrian government forces, rebels and the local militias of Sednaya, the Christian town near the statue site — halted fire while organizers set up the statue, without providing further details.

Rebels and government forces occasionally agree to cease-fires to allow the movement of goods. They typically do not admit to having truces because that would tacitly acknowledge their enemies.

It took three days to raise the statue. Photos provided by organizers show it being hauled in two pieces by farm tractors, then lifted into place by a crane. Smaller statues of Adam and Eve stand nearby.

The project, called “I Have Come to Save the World,” is run by the London-based St. Paul and St. George Foundation, which Al-Ghadban directs. It was previously named the Gavrilov Foundation, after a Russian businessman, Yuri Gavrilov.

Documents filed with Britain’s Charity Commission describe it as supporting “deserving projects in the field of science and animal welfare” in England and Russia, but the commission’s accounts show it spent less than 250 pounds ($400) in the last four years.

Al-Ghadban said most of the financing came from private donors, but did not supply further details.

Russians have been a driving force behind the project — not surprising given that the Kremlin is embattled Assad’s chief ally, and the Orthodox churches in Russia and Syria have close ties. Al-Ghadban, who spoke to The Associated Press from Moscow, is Syrian-Russian and lives in both countries.

Al-Ghadban said he began the project in 2005, hoping the statue would be an inspiration for Syria’s Christians. He said he was inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s towering Christ the Redeemer statue.

He commissioned an Armenian sculptor, but progress was slow. A series of his backers died, including Valentin Varennikov, a general who participated in the 1991 coup attempt against then President Mikhail Gorbachev. He later sought President Vladimir Putin’s backing for the statue project.

syria jesus statue

Varennikov died in 2009.

Another backer, Patriarch Ignatius IV, the Lebanon-based head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East, died in 2012. He had donated the land for the statue, according to church official Bishop Ghattas Hazim.

By 2012, the statue was ready, but Syria was aflame, causing the project’s biggest delay, al-Ghadban said.

Majority Sunni Muslims dominate the revolt, and jihadists make up some of the strongest fighting groups. Other Muslim groups along with the 10-percent Christian minority have stood largely with Assad’s government, or remained neutral, sometimes arming themselves to keep hard-line rebels out of their communities.

Churches have been vandalized, priests abducted. Last month the extremists overran Maaloula, a Christian-majority town so old that some of its people still speak a language from Jesus’ time.

On Tuesday a militant Muslim cleric, Sheik Omar al-Gharba, posted a YouTube video of himself smashing a blue-and-white statue of the Virgin Mary.

Al-Ghadban and the project’s most important backer, Gavrilov, weighed canceling it.

They consulted Syria’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch John Yaziji. It was he who told them “Jesus would have done it.”

They began shipping the statue from Armenia to Lebanon. In August, while it was en route, Gavrilov, 49, suffered a fatal heart attack, al-Ghadban said.

Eventually the statue reached Syria.

“It was a miracle,” al-Ghadban said. “Nobody who participated in this expected this to succeed.”

___

Associated Press writers Raphael Satter in London and Albert Aji in Damascus contributed to this report.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-06 »

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Orthodox Calendar 2014: ‘Romanian Priests’ Get Sexy (And Gay) For Steamy Spread (NSFW)

The “Romanian Orthodox priests” and boy toys behind last year’s steamy (and controversial) calendar spread are back in time for the holidays.

As in the 2013 edition, the 2014 Orthodox Calendar features 12 months of hunky models striking scintillating…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-06 »

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Blind Boys

A revelation at the Austin City Limits music festival.

Read the original article at Killing the Buddha  2013-11-06 »

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Vatican Embassy In Syria Hit By Mortar Shell

DAMASCUS, Syria — DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Eyewitnesses say a mortar shell has slammed into a Damascus building that houses the Vatican’s embassy.

It was not clear if the diplomatic mission was specifically targeted in the early morning attack Tuesday, which damaged the roof. The building is located on the edge of the upscale Damascus’ district of Abu Roummaneh. No casualties were reported.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest in the string of assaults on foreign diplomatic missions in Damascus.

Rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad have frequently fired mortars into Damascus to disrupt life in the capital, where the government tries to portray the situation as normal despite the civil war raging well into its third year.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-06 »

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Terrell Owens’ Father Asks For His Forgiveness (VIDEO)

When he was 11 years old, NFL superstar Terrell Owens made a shocking discovery: His biological father had been living across the street from him his entire life. His mother had an affair with the older, married neighbor named Mr. Russell when she was …

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-06 »

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Tassies ask: would we be better off without Christianity?

NEWS | Kaley Payne Tuesday 5 November 2013 Almost a thousand people gathered across Tasmania last week to determine whether they’re better off without Christianity. In an event sponsored by Bible Society Australia to see people re-engage with the Bible, Centre for Public Christianity’s Dr John Dickson spoke in Launceston and Hobart, challenging audiences to […]

The post Tassies ask: would we be better off without Christianity? appeared first on Bible Society.

Read the original article at Bible Society  2013-11-05 »

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Blogger Compares Slain TSA Agent To Nazis After LAX Shooting

Are Transportation Security Administration agents like Nazis? Blogger Rachel Burger seems to think so.

Here’s what Burger wrote on a libertarian website in a piece about last week’s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport that left TSA agent Gerardo I. Hernandez dead:

As a Jew, I am consistently reminded of the Nuremberg Trials when it comes to the TSA. Those who slaughtered the Jews in the Holocaust were “just following orders,” but that did not mean that they were any less accountable. Just following orders, just doing the job that they signed up for, did not excuse their actions. Of course, the Nuremberg Trials specifically addressed war crimes, but I think that the idea of just following orders extends beyond that. Being an ethical person requires critical thinking about everyday actions, whether commanded or not.

Hernandez signed up to the TSA, an organization devoted to “protect” travelers from terrorists. He could have had very good reasons to do so: he could have believed in the mission and needed to support his family (and on not very much, I might add). He was not a decision maker — he was an everyday guy doing his job. Hernandez, when infringing on Fourth Amendment rights, was “only following orders.” He might have been a good guy at home, but he was not entirely innocent in this situation. Doing without introspection does not absolve evil deeds.

If unarmed airport agents don’t immediately strike you as being a lot like Nazis, you may be surprised to learn that Burger is hardly alone in making this comparison. Ann Coulter called TSA airport screenings “Hitler’s last revenge.”We Are All German Jews Now” is the title of a piece on the TSA by Murray Sabrin, a former New Jersey Libertarian Party candidate for governor and the child of Holocaust survivors.

There are so many instances of the TSA being compared to Nazis that in 2010 writer Christopher Elliott, who’s long written about the TSA, took stock of them, noting that some seemed sort of facile, while others, like Sabrin’s, were more thorough. (Coulter’s contribution was dismissed as merely “awkward.”)

Elliott also pointed out that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones thinks that the TSA goes further than the Nazis. Here’s Jones, also writing in 2010:

It has taken the federal government and its Department of Homeland Security -– an agency on the drawing board well before September 11, 2001 -– to implement police state tactics in regard to travel that far surpass anything devised by the Nazis.

Even before the attacks of September 11, 2001, the government planned to create and impose a police state control grid on the American people. For instance, the Bill of Rights crushing Patriot Act was devised well before the attack and its predecessor, the 1996 Antiterrorism Act, was rushed into law following the first suspicious attack on the World Trade Center and the equally suspicious attack in Oklahoma City. Habeas corpus law was forever changed by the law touted by then president Bill Clinton.

Armed with its new and draconian palette of laws and mandates, the federal government, including the FBI, the CIA, and the Pentagon, have exploited the September 11 attacks to go after the real enemy –- the American people.

Elliott cites one Holocaust Museum employee who said in an online forum that she’s “not sure what Hitler has to do with airport security. And, if you are trying to compare airport screening to the treatment of targeted groups during the rise of the Third Reich, then I suggest [you] read more than just the first section of the Holocaust Museum in D.C.”

Indeed, there are plenty of critics, even within libertarian circles, which are sometimes criticized as too prone to invoking the Third Reich, inaptly.

Gina Luttrell, the editor of “Thoughts On Liberty,” where Burger’s piece was published, spoke up in the comments section of the piece:

In all our years of friendship and partnership I have never, ever disagreed more — or more vehemently — with what you’ve said here.

(a) How is a TSA officer anything remotely like a person who facilitated the holocaust? The difference is so vast that I think you do disservice to the holocaust itself by comparing the two.

(b) Though I think the blowback analogy is more apt, I still think that there is not a fair connection being drawn between foreign policy which deprives the lives and liberties of people across the globe, and the United States government asking you to be scanned before you take part in an otherwise entirely voluntary transaction. It’s not as if the gov’t puts so much pressure on the citizenry via TSA screenings that it “blows back.” One can simply travel by other means if you are really that worried about it (which I did, as you know, for two years before they made the scanner optional.

(c) If you do so roundly condemn violence, as you claim, it seems like the best course of action here would be to actually condemn that violence and not say “Well, what do you expect?” When you say “well, it’s just blowback,” I think that gives an A-OK for other people to do the same thing.

(d) Compiling all of this into one entire “Rachel, you are so, so wrong” pie is that TSA agents are COMPLETELY UNARMED. They are defenseless against a firearm attack. I don’t see how you can’t just uniformly, unilaterally, condemn that kind of action. The dude can’t have possibly thought that he would do some good or change things (much like what many terrorists profess to believe), nor will his actions.

(e) See: Victim Blaming – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming

I’m sure there are others, but I’ll leave it there for now.

Even Burger herself seems to be walking back her argument, sort of.

“No, I absolutely do not think that TSA employees are akin to Nazis,” she wrote in an email to HuffPost, before regaining enthusiasm for her original point. “The idea that ‘just following orders’ does not absolve government agents (whether soldiers or TSA agents) from moral or legal responsibility for their actions is made most famous by the Nuremberg Trials. I believe that this principle applies to people who commit rights violations on behalf of the state.”

Burger declined to specify which rights Hernandez was violating when he was killed, other than to say, “Hernandez, in his role as a TSA agent, was violating the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens. It ethically compromises him because he is violating guaranteed liberties.”

What we can say for sure: There’s one law that even Burger likes to follow. That’s Godwin’s law, which says that every Internet debate will eventually devolve into someone calling someone else a Nazi.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-05 »

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More Christian Sudanese vote to leave Sudan and join South Sudan

WORLD NEWS | Rebecca Tinsley Tuesday 5 November 2013 Sudan, already facing regional insurgencies and austerity riots, is on the brink of more violence along its border with South Sudan. Human rights groups say that the fate of Abyei, an area half the size of Belgium, reveals the international community’s lack of consistency and interest […]

The post More Christian Sudanese vote to leave Sudan and join South Sudan appeared first on Bible Society.

Read the original article at Bible Society  2013-11-05 »

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Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, Al-Shabab Terror Suspect, Wore Burka To Evade Surveillance

Police have lost track of a terror suspect in England after he entered a a mosque on Friday and left it wearing a burka, a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire body, face and eyes.

Security camera footage shows the suspect, Mohamm…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-05 »

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Atheist Marriages May Last Longer Than Christian Ones

Conservative Christians think of themselves as the last line of defense for a time-honored and holy tradition, marriage. In the conservative Christian view, marriage is a sacred union ordained by God. It binds one man and woman together so that the “two become one flesh” until they are parted by death.

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-05 »

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E.W. Jackson: ‘Marginalized’ Voters Will Help Lead To ‘Stunning Victory’ In Virginia Lieutenant Governor Race

Virginia lieutenant governor candidate Bishop E.W. Jackson (R), who will face off against Democrat state Sen. Ralph Northam at the polls tomorrow, predicted a “stunning victory” in an interview Monday.

In an interview with WMAL, Jackson said he thought “marginalized” voters would be the key to a big win.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there who feel disenfranchised, they feel that they’ve been marginalized, some of them are Christians, some of them frankly are libertarians, some of them are small business people, a lot of them are veterans, and they have really galvanized around my campaign because even though I have been slandered and my words often twisted and taken out of context, they’ve appreciated the fact that I’ve been willing to stand up for the things that I believe in,” Jackson said, according to Raw Story.

“I think we’re going to have a stunning victory tomorrow,” Jackson continued.

Jackson also insisted he would fight for all voters’ rights, “whether they’re Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu or Atheists,” if elected lieutenant governor.

“Becoming lieutenant governor is not about me imposing my beliefs on others,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s beliefs have caused a stir in the past. Jackson has said evolution is false because chimps can’t talk; God cannot bless the military because of gay marriage; government programs have done more harm to the African-American community than slavery; and Obama would make schools start “teaching all children homosexuality.”

Despite his ultra-conservative views, Jackson has said he has nothing to rephrase or apologize for.

“I don’t have anything to rephrase or to apologize for,” Jackson told reporters in May 2013. “I would just say, people should not paint me as one-dimensional. I have a whole lot of concerns.”

(h/t Raw Story)

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-05 »

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E.W. Jackson: ‘Marginalized’ Voters Will Help Lead To ‘Stunning Victory’ In Virginia Lieutenant Governor Race

Virginia lieutenant governor candidate Bishop E.W. Jackson (R), who will face off against Democrat state Sen. Ralph Northam at the polls tomorrow, predicted a “stunning victory” in an interview Monday.

In an interview with WMAL, Jackson said he thought “marginalized” voters would be the key to a big win.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there who feel disenfranchised, they feel that they’ve been marginalized, some of them are Christians, some of them frankly are libertarians, some of them are small business people, a lot of them are veterans, and they have really galvanized around my campaign because even though I have been slandered and my words often twisted and taken out of context, they’ve appreciated the fact that I’ve been willing to stand up for the things that I believe in,” Jackson said, according to Raw Story.

“I think we’re going to have a stunning victory tomorrow,” Jackson continued.

Jackson also insisted he would fight for all voters’ rights, “whether they’re Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu or Atheists,” if elected lieutenant governor.

“Becoming lieutenant governor is not about me imposing my beliefs on others,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s beliefs have caused a stir in the past. Jackson has said evolution is false because chimps can’t talk; God cannot bless the military because of gay marriage; government programs have done more harm to the African-American community than slavery; and Obama would make schools start “teaching all children homosexuality.”

Despite his ultra-conservative views, Jackson has said he has nothing to rephrase or apologize for.

“I don’t have anything to rephrase or to apologize for,” Jackson told reporters in May 2013. “I would just say, people should not paint me as one-dimensional. I have a whole lot of concerns.”

(h/t Raw Story)

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-05 »

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Isaiah Smith, Gay Teen Who Ripped Out Bible Pages, Suspended By Texas School

The American Humanist Association has formally sent a complaint to Birdville Independent School District in Texas, citing that Isaiah Smith’s First Amendment rights have been violated after the teen was suspended for ripping out pages of his Bible as a protest against anti-gay bullying.

Smith, who is gay and Christian, said that he was repeatedly told that “being gay is a sin,” and that “gays go to hell,” by students at his school.

He brought his personal Bible to his first period class on Monday, October 28, and tore out pages from Leviticus, a portion of the Bible which contains prohibitions against homosexuality, as a way of protesting their statements, and because he doesn’t believe the Bible condemns gay people. Smith was subsequently sent to the assistant principal’s office, who told him that though he could continue carrying around the ripped Bible, he shouldn’t tear out any more pages.

However, on Wednesday the assistant principal reportedly called him into his office again to reprimand him for carrying the torn book and asked, “How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Qur-an?” He was then suspended for three days and had his Bible confiscated, according to the letter.

isaiah
A photo from April of 2012 shows Smith affirming his belief that Christianity doesn’t condemn gays.

The American Humanist Association believes this is a violation of Smith’s First Amendments rights, and has called upon the school to either allow all students to carry torn versions of the Bible and any other books if they so choose, or forbid all students from carrying religious texts to school. They also demand that the suspension be expunged from Smith’s record, and have raised the possibility of a lawsuit if the school does not comply.

Smith is a student leader and gay rights activist who has previously petitioned the mayor of Keller, Texas, to recognize same-sex marriages by signing the ‘Mayors For the Freedom to Marry’ pledge.

“This is a clear violation of Isaiah’s First Amendment rights,” said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the Amercan Humanist Association. “The only explanation for this kind of punishment is that it was religiously motivated, because he expressed different beliefs on the Bible than those held by school officials. There’s no legal basis for that kind of reaction.”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-05 »

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Peter LaBarbera Approves Of Hallmark’s Omission Of ‘Gay’ From Christmas Ornament

Hallmark has received a barrage of criticism over a eyebrow-raising tweak to the lyrics of the popular carol “Deck the Halls” on one of its 2013 Keepsake ornaments, but one right-wing pundit feels the company’s decision was justifiable.

In an intervi…

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-11-05 »

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The lights of Diwali: From candles to lanterns to full-blown fireworks

By Stina Backer and Matthew Ponsford, for CNN (CNN) – Fireworks boom, bulbs flash, and flames flicker as tens of millions of people across the globe celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights. Diwali – from the word Deepavali, meaning “row of lights” – is observed by Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities, who celebrate […]

Read the original article at CNN Belief Blog  2013-11-05 »

Posted in Belief, Diwali, Faith Now, Hinduism, Matthew Ponsford, Stina Backer| Comments closed
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