Category Archives: freedom

From Persecution.org—The story of "Yohan" by Troy Augustine

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I usually do not re-post other columns but on this Sunday, June 14, 2015, as we in America celebrate “Flag Day” honoring “Old-Glory”  and all the freedoms she represents, I thought I would share this post from Persecution.Org. It was written by Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for the Africa Edition. 

It tells the story of a man named Yohan who, because he is Christian has been imprisoned, beaten and tortured since 2003 in Eritrea, a small nation in the Horn of Africa bordering the Red Sea. As a Catholic/Christian I know that Yohan is my brother in faith and we are connected through Jesus Christ. If you are Catholic/Christian/Jewish, you too, are connected to Yohan. 

On Flag Day in America we must always reflect on how blessed we are to have religious freedom. This freedom must always be protected and defended no matter what the cost.

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 One Eritrean Christian’s Story of Torture and Triumph by Faith Imprisoned for Christ
Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa
6/12/15 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – For three days, “Yohan’s” joints throbbed as the muscles in his arms and legs had stretched in directions human limbs are not intended to bend. His stomach was empty, except for the scraps that fell from the table of his captors after they had eaten their fill.
Yohan had been tied up like an animal, imprisoned, tortured, and starved for his faith in Christ in Eritrea. He was forced to eat trash mixed with dirty rain water that collected during the three days when prison guards bound him and left him outside, exposed to torrential rains, burning desert sun, and bitter cold nights.
“They take you outside in the hot sun with nothing to make you suffer and leave you out in the cold at night … I was praying and God told me, ‘Don’t be afraid. It will pass. Stand in your faith,'”Yohan told International Christian Concern (ICC).
Yohan had been thrown in jail in 2003 because he was a zealous evangelist. In Eritrea, preaching the gospel is illegal, but that didn’t stop Yohan from constantly testifying about Jesus Christ in the military after he was forcibly conscripted at age 18.
Eritrea’s Atrocious Human Rights Record
Yohan’s story of abuse and survival in Eritrea is not unique. The government rules its country with an iron fist, perpetuating a climate of fear and arbitrarily detaining, imprisoning, torturing, and often executing its opponents. Among the people, the state considers its enemies to be Christians who practice their faith outside of the three legal denominations: Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox.
Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993 and President Isaias Afwerki remains the country’s only head-of-state since then. His administration is paranoid that Ethiopia will recapture Eritrea, so the state suppresses any groups which they feel could become a rebel movement.
“They don’t allow preaching and they don’t al
low religious movements,”
 Yohan said. “They are afraid always if people get together in groups … They know if they gather to make fellowship, they think it will turn into a movement to end their power. They don’t allow very large groups of people to gather for any reason,” he added.
The United Nations (UN) released a scathing report on June 8, detailing the kinds of abuse that Yohan experienced that exist in Eritrea at a scale the document called “systematic, widespread, and gross.” The report suggest that the Eritrean state may be guilty of “crimes against humanity.”
“The religious gatherings of non-authorized denominations are prohibited. Religious materials are confiscated. Adherents are arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated or subjected to torture during their detention, and prisoners are coerced to recant their faith. Many religious followers have been killed or have disappeared,” the report said.
The study compiled more than 700 testimonies from Eritreans who have similar stories to Yohan. Other prisoners like him testified about, “extreme forms of restraint, beatings or rape … intended to inflict severe physical and psychological pain.”
The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also designatedEritrea as a “Country of Particular Concern,” in its 2015 Annual Report, corroborating the kinds of systematic abuses mentioned in the UN report and in Yohan’s story.
The Dreadful Choice Facing Eritrean Christians
In the face of such terror perpetrated by their own government, scores of Eritrean Christians are fleeing the country, headed for Europe or the United States. On June 3, Islamic State (ISIS) militants kidnapped 88 Eritrean Christians in Libya, headed for Tripoli. According to reports, ISIS separated Christians and Muslims and let the Muslims go free.
On June 4, unknown gunmen, suspected to be from the Sudanese Islamist Rashaida tribe,reportedly opened fire on a convoy of between 49 and 70 Eritrean refugees traveling from Wadi Sharifey near Kassala to Shagarab refugee camp, kidnapping 14 Christians. In Sudan, Shagarab refugee camp is commonly known to be a favorite target of Rashaida, who is regularly involved in illegal human trafficking.
This unimaginable choice that Eritrean Christians face highlights the pervasive and understandable terror that permeates the country. The horrifying reality is that many Christians find it more hopeful to risk death by leaving for countries filled with Muslim extremists bent on their extinction, than to remain in their homeland.
“Faced with a seemingly hopeless situation [that] they feel powerless to change, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans are fleeing their country. In desperation, they resort to deadly escape routes through deserts and neighboring war-torn countries and across dangerous seas in search of safety. They risk capture, torture and death at the hands of ruthless human traffickers,” the UN report concluded.
Suffering under the fiercest persecution in Eritrea, Yohan decided the same.
Yohan’s Perseverance and Escape
In jail, Yohan became acquainted with suffering, just like his Savior was. Yohan pointed to God’s grace, which sustained him through the torture and intimidation. He faced regular interrogations where officials tried to coerce him to recant his faith, even at gunpoint. Through all of it, Yohan’s faith was strengthened. Like the Apostle Paul, Yohan was confident, and he was ready to die.
“If we believe in Jesus, and we live for Him, we die for Him. We are ready to die in every situation, in every moment. This is the story of our life. It is daily life,” he said.
Despite continuous beatings and torture, Yohan refused to deny Christ. “I am nothing, but God is Alpha and Omega. I am not afraid of you because someday you are going to die, so I’m not afraid to die from you,” he told his captors.
In 2004, after nearly a year in prison experiencing unspeakable persecution, Yohan made the same decision scores of his fellow Eritrean brothers and sisters are making today. He was determined to escape the country through Sudan. Yohan was provided a military uniform from a friend outside of the prison and disguised himself to escape.
Once he made it outside the gates, he sprinted for the Sudanese border, running for four days. Finally, he reached Sudan where officials interrogated him regarding his identity and then jailed for three days before releasing him. Ironically, Yohan found in Sudan a go
vernment that was more sympathetic to him as a refugee than the way his own government had treated him, even though Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity” for perpetrating genocide in Darfur.
From Sudan, Yohan traversed his way through different parts of Africa from Zimbabwe to South Africa, to Egypt, before finally reaching the United States where he lives under asylum. Yohan’s story is one that accentuates the grace of God to persevere His people through the worst of suffering in this world.
Through it all, whether they survive like Yohan, or give their lives standing for Christ, Eritrean brothers and sisters have been counted worthy to suffer the way Jesus did. “We believe in Christ. The way of Christ is to suffer,” Yohan said.
Footnote: Ou

Why the USA Must Take the Lead in the War Against ISIS Barbarism: It is the Right Thing To Do

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I sit here safe at 7 a.m. pecking away at the keyboard in front of me. My thoughts, for the moment, are focused on the words I make appear on the screen. A cup of coffee sits to my right . My freedom in America allows me to be a Catholic and practice my faith without interference (so far). So at 7:45 I will leave and go to Mass.This is what being an American and living in the greatest country in the world is like for me and millions like me. Being blessed beyond belief, we are FREE to do what we choose except break the law.

It is about 2 p.m. in Syria. There are Catholics/Christians there. As I sit at this keyboard reports are coming from Christian aid agencies that ISIS satanic fueled  savages have overrun the city of Hassakah, killing 15 young Assyrians who tried to defend their families. In Tel Hormizd, 14 of the defenders were killed including two women, one of whom was beheaded. So far over 350 men, women and children have been kidnapped and brought to the Sunni village of Bab Alfaraj. The word going out from ISIS is that today, Friday, February 27, 2015, “all people should come to the mountain of Abdul Aziz to attend “a mass killing of infidels”.

Those “infidels” are our brothers and sisters in faith. They will be killed in horrible ways because they LOVE Jesus Christ. I pause and sip my coffee again. I have to take a breath. I LOVE the same Jesus. These people will be slaughtered today and I am no different in my core beliefs. If I were there I would not be here tomorrow. Yes, we Americans are so blessed yet—so many Americans don’t seem to get it. They do not seem to realize that this could be us, anyone of us. Even being an American atheist qualifies you for ISIS extermination. In that regard they are the same as we Catholics and Jews.

We are all “infidels” to these maniacs. But who is supposed to lead the charge against the 21st century genocide taking place? Who is supposed to stand up for the weaker and more vulnerable of those who have knives to their throats waiting for their heads to be cut off, ropes tied around their necks waiting to have their necks snapped, and who wear gasoline soaked clothing ready to be burned alive? I say, without hesitation, the United States of America is the nation and people who must take charge. Why us? I’ll tell you why us and it has to do with having God as our primary support.

We are still a Judeo-Christian nation and as such we have a responsibility. America is called the “melting pot” because we are unlike any other nation on the planet. We are Americans because we are all different. We are black, white, yellow, brown and red. We are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim. German, Irish, French, Tanzanian, Argentinian, Pakistani, Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican and on and on. We are everyone. We are supposed to be an American family. We are, in fact, the most diverse family ever. Since a family should take care of its own all of those being slaughtered in Syria, Iraq, North Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, France, Denmark and so on are our extended family.

We have all the resources, all the power and all the weapons. This is part of the privilege of being Americans. However, along with that privilege and honor comes responsibility to those of our extended family members that are weaker and less blessed than we are. If I have a family and a neighbor moves in and starts to attack my children I MUST defend them. It is the right thing to do. If I am incapable of fighting back myself and my family is at risk, I call upon my older and stronger brother(s) to help me. Since the family is the  basic unit of a society it follows that we, as Americans, must defend our  downtrodden brothers and sisters who have become the prime targets in the 21st century genocide, a genocide which actually began right here in America on September 11, 2001

At this very moment in Syria and Nigeria and in Iraq, Christians are being viciously murdered because they love Jesus Christ who preached the doctrine of Love Your Neighbor. It is time for the United States of America to unite the peace and freedom loving nations of the world and lead them in defense of  the freedom of all those who are extended family. It is the RIGHT THING TO DO.

                                     ©2015 Larry Peterson All Rights Reserved

Hey Atheists–Why Can't You Leave Us Deists Alone?

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

by Larry Peterson

The FFRF (a snappy little acronym for the “Freedom From Religion Foundation”) was in the news again.  Their latest inane protest demanding the U.S. Navy  get rid of all Bibles at guest hotels  had been granted.  NEXCOM (a pronounceable acronym for “Navy Exchange Service Command”) decided in favor of FFRF and agreed to remove Bibles from 34 Navy locations and 24,000 Navy Gateway Inns and Suites guest rooms on Navy bases around the world.  Hey man, they did not even have to go to court and argue before a judge.  No sir, the Navy just agreed to it.  That was in June.  Ah, but hope triumphed and a wee bit of good old-fashioned American common sense finally prevailed.  The United States Navy has ordered the return of all Bibles to the hotel rooms.  This is just one example of FFRF’s intrusiveness into the lives and practices of the millions of Americans who believe in God.  Whatever is their problem?

I am so bewildered with this atheist thing.  Okay, you want to be an atheist, knock yourself out.  Sit under a tree and caress a falling leaf.  That is your American right.  Just remember, we deists do not care.  I can guarantee you that we will not try to stop you from snuggling and  honoring your fallen leaf.  But–why do you CARE that there are billions of your fellow human beings who do  believe in God?  If you do not believe in God can’t you just be happy leaving us alone?  Oh, I see, you are offended?   Well, if that is the case, it is time you got over it. Grow up and thank the God you do NOT believe in for the very freedom that allows you to mock, belittle, disparage and continually tear down the rest of us.

 Look my friend(s), you are hypocrites and do not even know it.  You live in a country that gives ALL of us the FREEDOM to worship God.  If you have a problem understanding this, let me explain:  freedom does, in fact, include all of us deists.  Amendement One says,  ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or PROHIBITING the free exercise thereof.”  Therefore, it follows, that you guys want to use your freedom to PROHIBIT us God believers from enjoying our freedom to believe.  That, my atheist, nontheist friends, makes you all  hypocrites.  And you call yourselves, “Freethinkers”.  Well, may I please ask, are not the rest of us allowed to think freely or have YOU decided that we should not enjoy that freedom?

How would you like it if there was a group called “You Must Accept Christianity” or YMAC.   In their zealousness to save all souls they decided that all atheists must be baptized in the Potomac River.  They go to court and quote George Washington who said, “The adoption of the Constitution will demonstrate as visibly the finger of  PROVIDENCE as any possible event in the course of human affairs can ever designate.”  Incidentally,  the word PROVIDENCE, has often been used as the “name of God”.

Okay, now what if they found a judge who ruled that Washington’s quote proves that the US Constitution is indeed, founded with belief in God as a basis.  Then the same judge  rules it is illegal to NOT worship God on Sundays.  How would that work out for you?   Are you not doing exactly that but in reverse?  Are you not weakening the Constitution that was put in place by men who strove so hard to protect the Americans of the future?   If you lived in Iran, China, North Korea, and so many other places you could NEVER get away with protesting the way you and so many others do in America.  Why in the name of all that is GOOD, do you want to strip that freedom away from others?

I shall finish with this.  The United States of America  is still the most formidable bastion of freedom on this planet.  You are weakening this nation with your silly and preposterous  attacks on those who hold a different belief system than you do.  I wish you all would step back and think about what you are really doing when you try to strip the rights of those you disagree with away from them.  You are promulgating government sponsored atheism. By the way,  China leads the world in having the most atheists.  They have almost a 50% atheist population.  The United States only has a 5%-9% atheist population.  Something you all might think about because if you get so overly offended by all of America’s religions you do have options.

SO Disappointed with the DNC

I have unceremoniously plodded onward in life and have crossed the senior citizen threshold. Therefore I remember VIVIDLY everything about the assassination of President Kennedy. Part of that entire memory includes his daughter Caroline standing next to her mom as the fallen President’s horse drawn casket passed them by. She had just turned six. (Of course, no one who witnessed it will ever forget John John’s salute). To the point. Now 55 year old,  Caroline Kennedy was introduced as a guest speaker at the Democratic National Convention. She looked so Kennedyish and for a brief moment, deja-vu, ah Camelot. Then she spoke and Camelot, once again, vanished. What a disappointment.

Caroline first proclaimed her Catholicism and then, to quote, “as a Catholic woman, I take reproductive rights very seriously, and today, they are under attack”. HUH ???? Under attack by WHOM???
The Catholic Church of course. Her church. her faith. So, for the sake of political expediency, she spits in her church’s face. What’s up with this hypocrisy? How can a person profess his or her belief in a church’s teachings and then pick and chose which ones they like? What if some outstanding baseball prospect came along and could virtually hit every pitch thrown his way at least 450 feet. But there was one problem–he always hit the ball foul. No matter how hard he tried he could never hit it fair. So he decided to challenge the location of the foul lines and went to court because he wanted his hits to be fair like everyone else who played the game. Far fetched analogy? Why? Foul lines in baseball are the same from Little League up through the Major Leagues. That’s it. End of story. The Catholic Church has always been against abortion and contraception. That’s it. End of story. Many Catholic women practice birth-control and have been doing so for decades. That is between them and their God. The church will never approve. But the church realizes that people have to live within their own consciences and sort of turns aside a bit when it comes to birth control. When it comes to abortion, the Catholic Church is  much more vocal and adamant in its opposition. Abortion takes a life. It will never change its stance on this topic and will always be there to offer every conceivable alternative to such an act. “Reproductive rights” include contraception, abortafacient drugs and abortion,  including partial-birth and after-birth abortion. “After-birth abortion”–just think about that one. By the way folks, there is no “war on women” being waged by the Catholic Church. It is the other way around; a war on the Catholic Church is being waged by secularists who want their own way.
The DNC also removed the name of GOD from their platform and the word Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. After urging from the President it was put back in but the majority of delegates objected. When did the name of GOD become offensive? Cardinal Dolan’s offer to give the closing benediction was at first refused. Then it was accepted. When he gave it the major networks did not broadcast it and afterwards hundreds upon hundreds of “F-Bombs” directed at the Cardinal were posted on Twitter. Why?—was it just because he is a priest and said a prayer asking God to protect life and freedom? 
Along with Caroline Kennedy there are quite a few “Catholics” who denounce their church and preach their own theology.  Vice-president Joe Biden, former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi,  and former presidential candidate John Kerry are a few of the  professed Catholics who approve of abortion and proclaim the wondrous freedom it gives to women everywhere. Sorry folks, just because you say it does not mean that they are going to move the foul lines. You want to make your own rules and then castigate those who might disagree. That is not the way it works. This is not spreading “freedom” but rather it is promoting servitude to one’s self. You and all of those like you have no idea what a big disappointment you are to so many.