Christian Charity CEO: Trump Admin’s Religious Freedom Alliance a Good Start to Battling ‘the Issue of Our Time’

David Curry, CEO of Open Doors (courtesy Open Doors), a Christian charity group.

FRANCES MARTEL 13 Feb 2020

The U.S. State Department’s launch of a global coalition to defend religious freedom is a “good first step” in countering a mounting wave of repression against both the faithful and those who choose not to worship, David Curry, the CEO of the Christian aid group Open Doors, told Breitbart News.

Curry, whose charity focuses on helping oppressed Christians and tracks persecution trends through the annual publication of its World Watch List, added that religious persecution is “the issue of our time” and present in nearly every conflict area in the world.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the establishment of the International Religious Freedom Alliance this month, a coalition of 27 countries around the globe that have committed to a set of principles that include both the respect for the freedom of conscience of their citizens and the advocacy for religious freedom abroad. On the list are nations representing North and South America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, including Senegal, Ukraine, Israel, Albania, and Brazil, among others.

“The formation of the Alliance marks the first time in history an international coalition has come together at a national leadership level to push the issue of religious freedom forward around the world. Egregious perpetrators of religious persecution have long operated with impunity,” Pompeo said in a statement announcing the move. “The Alliance will unify powerful nations and leverage their resources to stop bad actors and advocate for the persecuted, the defenseless, and the vulnerable. The threats to religious freedom are global. They require global participation and global solutions.”

The principles the alliance has signed onto include respecting international law on individual freedom of conscience, specifically, “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, including the right to hold any faith or belief, or none at all, and the freedom to change faith.”

Given that many of these nations – the United Kingdom, Colombia, and others – are not locations considered significantly dangerous for people of faith or those defying the majority belief system, perhaps more powerful is the commitment in the list of principles to publicly demand respect for religious freedom.

“The Alliance intends to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all, which includes the right of individuals to hold any belief or none, to change religion or belief and to manifest religion or belief, either alone or in community with others, in worship, observance, practice, and teaching,” the text of the Declaration of Principles reads. “The Alliance is intended to bring together senior government representatives to discuss actions their nations can take together to promote respect for freedom of religion or belief and protect members of religious minority groups worldwide.”

“Every country on that list could still make progress on protecting religious freedom, all these founding members, but I think what’s hopeful is that these countries have agreed on a framework to form these core principles and I think that the discussion of it and the raising of the standard is a good first step,” Curry told Breitbart News in an interview Thursday. “I think it highlights the fact that this is a growing concern of many countries around the world. There’s a continued restriction and intolerance towards not just the practice of Christianity but any faith around the world. This is the issue of our time as it relates to a lot of chaos around the world.”

Curry noted that religious intolerance is common in conflicted, impoverished, or authoritarian regions of the world, nearly always accompanying other human rights atrocities.

“I think governments in the past have seen religious liberty as maybe a partisan issue. I would hope that people are beginning to see – with all these crises around the world, ISIS, al-Qaeda, what’s happening in Burkina Faso – they’re beginning to see the role that intolerance has played in other larger social issues,” he explained.

“I’ve always said that religious freedom is the canary in the coal mine,” he continued. “It’s the first thing you’ll notice when something is going amiss in areas about ready to tip over into chaos, whether that’s northern Nigeria or Iraq and Syria or anywhere else. … Where you have an area where there’s mayhem … you will always have religious liberty issues.”

Curry predicted that the alliance’s efforts would, in the long term, convince some governments that have remained neutral or negative on religious freedom to shift their priorities and defending the individual rights of their citizens. World governments, he added, have a responsibility to defend these freedoms and strip their laws of discrimination based on faith or lack thereof.

“Civil society has a role to play, government has a role to play in creating environments where people can practice their faith or choose not to practice a faith without fear of pressure, oppression, being imprisoned, being attacked by other groups,” Curry said. “We need civil government to pass the kinds of laws that allow people to change their mind or change their faith if they so choose as an adult to do that, or to decide that they want to be an atheist – I think these are things that civil government has to do.”

According to the 2020 edition of Open Doors’ World Watch List, 260 million Christians are currently living under “high levels of oppression” – facing war, terrorism, discriminatory laws, and mob violence, among other threats. North Korea, a totalitarian communist state that forces citizens to worship dictator Kim Jong-un and his family, topped the list as the world’s most repressive country for Christians. The list noted increasing levels of violence against Christians in much of Africa – particularly Burkina Faso, which did not appear on the 2019 list – and a decrease in Iraq and Syria as a result of the collapse of the Islamic State.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

AUDIO How Christmas Has Shaped Our History and Values

“Madonna and Child” by Spanish painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, oil on canvas, circa between 1655 and 1660. This well-loved depiction of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus hangs in the Pitti Palace Gallery in Florence, Italy. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

ROBERT KRAYCHIK 25 Dec 2017

“Christmas is essential to our understanding of Western Civilization and our values,” said Breitbart News’s Senior Editor-at-Large Rebecca Mansour on Sunday.

“The symbols and celebration of Christmas have shaped our history [and] Western Civilization,” said Mansour.

Reflecting on “the dawn of Christianity,” she noted Christianity’s “transformative” impact on the old pagan world and the culture of Germanic barbarian warrior tribes.

Chivalry — rooted in ethical monotheism — spread the concept of valuing all human life as having dignity, said Mansour:

Chivalry was introduced to Western feudalism [via Christianity]. It made feudalism actually livable and bearable. What chivalry called for, what the concept of chivalry was, it was about the defense of the weak. It said that the strong had to be champions of the right and the good against injustice and evil. That was the code of chivalry.

This only came about because of the Judeo-Christian West, and I say Judeo-Christian for a very specific reason; all of this is rooted in the ancient Jewish scripture, what the Christians would call the Old Testament. You can see it right from the beginning. The God of the Old Testament, the God of Jewish scripture instructs that every single human being has worth and dignity — even the foreigner, even somebody outside of your tribe, even the widow and the orphan. They all have worth and value — the weakest among you as well as the strong. This is a radical concept, and it is from the Jews that we have monotheism, and it is from that that Christianity evolved.

“The idea of protection of the weak and innocent,” said Mansour, entered Western culture via Judeo-Christian ethics, which radically “changed the way that we have looked at the rights of the weakest among us.”

Bannon agreed, noting that the “Rough Roman justice” of the old pagan world had “no sense of you as a person or an individual.”

Christianity’s spread to the Germanic lands on the frontiers of the Roman Empire, noted Mansour, set the stage for the evolution of conceptual human rights and created the foundation for the Western values we cherish today.

Mansour tied this to the symbols and celebration of Christmas by explaining that the “most iconic” and ancient Nativity image is the Madonna and Child.

The ubiquity of depictions of the Madonna and Child as “the highest expression of art” in European countries, said Mansour, vividly illustrates Christianity’s transformation of the “Viking-type” “warrior tribe” cultures that valued only the strong and worshipped war gods. People who once subscribed to an ethos of “might makes right” had transitioned to a civilization that elevated the image of a woman holding a child to preeminence in their artistic expressions.

Christian symbolism — particularly pertaining to the Christmas-themed image of the Madonna and Child — played an indispensable role in rallying Christian forces to victory against Islamic enemies in determinative battles, said Mansour. Pointing to the Battles of Vienna (1683) and Warsaw (1920) as examples, she noted the centrality of Christian symbolism to the war efforts of European nations in defending against Islamic and communist invasions, respectively.

In both battles, Mansour explained, Catholic Poland’s devotion to a depiction of the Madonna and Child known as the Black Madonna of Częstochowa served as a rallying point and source of consolation. It also served as a unifying symbol for Lech Walesa’s Solidarity Movement in their struggles against their communist rulers in the 1980s, she noted. Walesa famously wore a lapel pin bearing the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa.

Mansour and Bannon went into particular detail about the epic Battle Vienna in 1683. As Mansour explained, the Polish King Jan III Sobieski rallied his forces to liberate the besieged city of Vienna from the Islamic army of the Ottoman Turks by encouraging them to fight for “God and Our Lady” and to invoke the Madonna’s help in securing their victory and protecting their homeland, which he had entrusted to her care when he visited the shrine at Częstochowa before departing for battle.

The allied Christian forces, known as the Holy League, under Sobieski’s command knew that if Vienna fell, the Turks would then turn their sights on their ultimate goal which, Mansour explained, was “the greatest city in Christendom — Rome,” and “if Rome fell, Holy Mother Church would fall.” The Christian forces were fighting to preserve their faith, she said.

Sobieski himself led the cavalry charge to liberate Vienna — the largest cavalry charge in history — with 18,000 Polish and allied knights, including 3,000 of the famed “Wing Hussars.” The allied forces of the Holy League smashed the Turkish army and sent them scurrying over the Danube. The victorious Sobieski sent the Pope the Turkish army’s green Islamic banner along with a message paraphrasing the words of Julius Caesar: “Veni, vidi, Deus vicit.” (“I came, I saw, God conquered.”)

“The Christians had turned the tide against the sword of Islam” in the Battle of Vienna, said Mansour, quoting Ludwig Heinrich Dyck. The Turks would never again venture that far into Western Europe.

The Battle of Vienna, oil on canvas, circa 1688, by Martino Altomonte (Wikimedia Commons)

“It was on September 11, 1683 that the conquering armies of Islam were met, held, and thrown back at the gates of Vienna,” wrote the late Christopher Hitchens, describing the rationale behind the date selection of the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001.

“The radicalized Muslim world,” said Bannon, views the Battle of Vienna as a symbol of Christian victory that must be overcome. “It was one of the symbols of the September 11 bombing seventeen years ago, this Battle of Vienna.”

“We would all be in mosques today” if not for Christianity and Christmas as galvanizing forces among Western societies against hostile Islamic societies, said Bannon.

Although civilizational conflict between Western and Islamic societies has modified across space and time, it continues through the present day with certain commonalities. Bannon explained:

The Siege of Vienna we’re talking about, with the Ottoman Empire — which is Turkey, and the Muslims — this whole invasion of the West, occurring literally today with the same migrant issues coming up through Syria, through Turkey, and you see the countries of Poland, and Hungary, and the Czech Republic, and Slovakia taking the lead here in trying to reverse this.

“These fights haven’t really changed all that much. It’s still Iran and the West. It’s still Persia and the West,” said Bannon, noting the similar conflictual flash points between Western forces and ISIS of today and the Roman and Persian empires of nearly two thousand years ago.

Christianity and broader Judeo-Christian values, suggested both Bannon and Mansour, reinforce Western Civilization’s sense of purpose in the face of internal and external threats.

The migration of tens of millions of Muslims to Europe in recent decades, said Bannon, is an existential threat to Europe and modern iteration of aforementioned civilization conflict between Western and Islamic societies: “The entire situation with this mass migration and refugee situation, which is really, there is no doubt, is starting to destroy Europe.”

Listen to the full audio of Mansour and Bannon’s discussion on Breitbart News Sunday above.

Breitbart News Sunday airs on SiriusXM Patriot between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern (4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Pacific).

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.

Mansour made her comments while co-hosting Breitbart News Sunday alongside Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon during a special Christmas Eve live broadcast on SiriusXM.

 

https://www.breitbart.com/radio/2017/12/25/mansour-how-christmas-is-essential-to-our-understanding-of-our-values/

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