Barnabas Fund highlights three fronts of the war being fought today in Europe against Biblical Christianity.
A major academic study in Austria1 has shown that many jihadists and other radical Islamists have a deep understanding of Islamic theology. The study 2, published at the beginning of August, comprehensively refutes the claims made by many politicians and other public figures in the West that radical Islam is a perversion of Islam and jihadists have little knowledge of Islamic theology.
The 310-page study, conducted by Ednan Aslan, who is professor of Islamic religious education at the University of Vienna, was based on 29 in-depth interviews with radical Muslims in Austria. Most of those studied already had a grounding in Islamic belief before they were radicalised. However, what Professor Aslan terms “the intensive examination of theological topics” represented a turning point for many in their radicalisation. Professor Aslan’s study also highlighted the central role played by some Islamic theological teachers in radicalisation, stating, “persons with a higher theological knowledge function as authorities and play a central role in the spread of ideology.”
It is really important that Western governments wake up and take notice of such research. Until they recognise that the persecution of Christians and other non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere is driven by some long-standing interpretations of Islamic theology, it is unlikely that they will be able to address the problem effectively.
In fact, when Western recruits join jihadi groups such as Islamic State, one of the first things that happens to them is that they are taught Islamic theology, which includes how non-Muslims are to be treated. There is a major theological debate3 going on at the moment within Islamic State as to how non-Muslims and apostates should be defined.
These are not new debates; they represent a stream of Islamic theology that has existed for centuries. Groups such as Islamic State frequently quote from medieval Islamic theologians such as ibn Taymiyya (d.1328 AD), who took a particularly harsh approach towards Christians.
Of course, it is true that some jihadists simply “jump on the bandwagon” with little initial knowledge of Islamic theology. But – and this is why Aslan’s study is so important – Western governments must grasp the fact that the jihadists’ persecution of Christians and other non-Muslim minorities is primarily driven by interpretations of Islamic theology that go back centuries.
Sweden to deport Christian back to Iran 4
Sweden is about to deport back to Iran a well-known Iranian actress who has left Islam to become a Christian,despite the fact that this would violate the UN Refugee Convention. Aideen Strandsson 5 came to faith in Christ after watching a video in Iran of a woman being stoned to death. She said, “I decided at that moment I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore.”
She explained how, shortly after this, “I had a dream about Jesus. He was sitting near me and he took my hand.”
She kept her faith a secret but when she came to Sweden on a work visa in 2014 she asked for a public baptism, saying, “I want to have a baptism in public because I want to say I am not afraid anymore I am free, I am Christian, I want everyone to know about that.” However, Swedish officials have told Aideen that becoming a Christian was “her decision” and now it’s “her problem” and not theirs. At her asylum hearing, a Swedish migration official even told her it would not be as bad for her in Iran as she is expecting because it would only be six months in prison.
In fact, Iranian prisons are a particularly dangerous environment for any woman. Rape has been widely used6 against female prisoners since the 1979 Islamic revolution on the pretext that women offenders must not be allowed to remain virgins, as this could result in them being admitted to paradise. Added to this, as both an apostate from Islam and a nationally known actress who has appeared in films and on TV, Miss Strandsson is likely to be viewedas a significant embarrassment to the Iranian government. As such, her life will be in serious danger. As Barnabas Fund 7 recently reported, there is increasing evidence that Iranian agents are active, even in the West, in monitoring Iranian Christians and Aideen has already received threats on social media.
The Swedish government’s actions are a clear violation of the UN Refugee Convention 8 , which states that its “core principle”, which has the status of International law, is,“a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.”
Sweden has recently let in large numbers of migrants from Muslimmajority nations. However, a public backlash has led the government to crackdown on asylum-seekers and now Christians such as Aideen may be deported back to countries where they face prison, abuse and even death. In a worrying new trend, which may affect Christians in other European countries which have recently allowed in large numbers of migrants, decisions on asylum appear to be influenced not just by human rights but also by government targets, with little or no recognition of the specific persecution faced by Christian minorities in countries such as Iran.
We have seen this problem in the selection of refugees for resettlement in the West from countries such as Syria. Despite the USA and other countries saying that they accept that Christians and other religious minorities such as Yazidis have faced genocide there, the UN High Commission for Refugees still does not include this in their “vulnerability criteria” and Western governments perversely claim they cannot do so because they “must treat members of all religions equally.” The refusal to recognise specific persecution faced by non-Muslims is costing Christian lives. Tragically, it now appears to have spread to European countries such as Sweden.
Miss Strandsson’s attorney, Gabriel Donner, who has assisted around a thousand Christian asylum seekers, was asked if the Swedish authorities thought she was lying or simply do not care. He replied, “Primarily they don’t care – it’s numbers. They have promised the public in Sweden that they will deport more people than before and so they have to fill the quota.”
He also says that part of the problem is that Sweden is now so irreligious that officials have no understanding of religious conversion and simply assume it is a lifestyle choice, rather than an experience of who God is that affects their eternal destiny.
“A convert says, ‘I converted because of the love I received from Jesus Christ,’ and they almost mockingly ask the convert, ‘What do you mean by love?’ They don’t understand the message in the Bible. It’s just completely alien to them.”
Mr Donner estimated that approximately 8,000 Christian asylumseekers are now hiding in Sweden to avoid deportation. Watch the moving video clip of Aideen Strandsson and her lawyer sharing her story on CBN 9
Religious freedom? Not in the NHS 10
Richard Page is to appear in court to challenge a National Health Service ruling that effectively imposes a new “Test Act,” requiring employees not to make any comments outside of the workplace that contradict the Trust’s politically correct view of “equality.” Until March last year Mr Page was both a magistrate and a non-executive director of Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT). However, while sitting as a magistrate during an adoption hearing, he expressed the view that it was “generally in the best interests” of a child to have both a mother and father. Complaints that this contravened “equality” policies led to him being removed from being a magistrate. After he spoke about this on television, the Chairman of the NHS Trust arranged for Mr Page to be suspended from his (entirely unrelated) role as trustee. More than 6,000 people voiced their concern about this to the NHS Trust. However, a panel set up to investigate Mr Page’s continuance as a trustee subsequently told him, "It was not in the interests of the health service for you to serve as a non-executive director in the NHS," claiming that his actions were "likely to have had a negative impact on the confidence of staff, patients and the public in you as a local NHS leader."
Mr Page’s case is the latest is a series of attempts to require public sector employees to publicly assent to a particular set of beliefs in order to hold public office. However, it is a particularly disturbing case because Kent and Medway NHS Trust suspended Mr Page, who has given 20 years dedicated service to mental health work, for comments he made outside of the workplace. To put this into context, between 1719 and 1888 the UK abolished a series of “Test Acts” that prohibited anyone from holding jobs such as teachers, lawyers and university professors unless they publicly subscribed to certain beliefs. In other words, this NHS Trust has effectively sought to turn the clock back on more than 130 years of religious freedom in the UK.
An article in the Daily Telegraph 11 warned that the hearing, which began on Tuesday at the Croydon Employment Tribunal courts, could have major implications for how public bodies treat staff who hold religious beliefs. It stated that Mr Page is expected to warn that “the loss of his job because of his religious beliefs signified a worrying shift away from pluralism towards ideological dictatorship in the health service.”