A teenage boy was shot dead in front of his family in Syria after being accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.
Coffee seller Muhammad al-Qatta, 15, was abducted by rebels and tortured before being gunned down in a street.
His crime was to say he wouldn't give a customer a free drink "even if Muhammad came back to earth".
Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded the shocking details of the youngster's death.
The London based organisation - which has observers in Aleppo - said Muhammad was killed in front of a crowd which included his parents.
His fanatical killers shot him in the head and neck after telling onlookers that anyone else found guilty of blasphemy would suffer the same fate.
However reports say that the phrase Muhammad spoke - or at least one similar - is commonly used in Syrian dialect.
However, because it is possible the rebel group were made up of non-Syrian natives and spoke a different dialect of Arabic, they took grave offence.
In a video posted on YouTube, his mother said she had seen Muhammad being killed from her balcony. "His blood ran in front of me," she said.
This is an horrific story about human sacrifice in modern day Mexico.
The 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) cult in Mexico places great importance on the dead
Eight people have been arrested in northern Mexico have over the killing of two 10-year-old boys and a woman in what appears to be ritual sacrifices.
Prosecutors in Sonora, in the north-west of the country have accused the suspects of belonging to the La Santa Muerte (Holy Death) cult.
The victims' blood has been poured round an altar to the idol, which is portrayed as a skeleton holding a scythe and clothed in flowing robes.
The cult, which celebrates death, has been growing rapidly in Mexico in the last 20 years, and now has up to two million followers.
Mr Larrinaga said the murders took place at a ritual during the night, lit by candles.
'They sliced open the victims' veins and, while they were still alive, they waited for them to bleed to death and collected the blood in a container,' he said.
Many of those arrested belonged to the same family, reports said.
Silvia Meraz, one of the suspects, and her son, Ramon Palacios, were allegedly leaders of the cult, according to prosecutors. Speaking to reporters, she said: 'We all agreed to do it. Supposedly she [one of the victims] was a witch or something.'
Human sacrifice has existed from the beginning of human history. I thought immediately of Father Barron who says in his review of The Hunger Games that as society de-Christianizes, you can expect human sacrifice to return.
Brian Greene explains Rene Girard's theory of scapegoat and sacrifice - 'something is wrong and somebody has to pay for it,' reality-TV, and Christ's sacrifice which exposed the scapegoating ritual thus ending it in Christendom.
A few years ago, a college writing professor, Kay Haugaard, wrote an essay about her experiences teaching “The Lottery” over a period of about two decades.
She said that in the early 1970s, students who read the story voiced shock and indignation. The tale led to vivid conversations on big topics -- the meaning of sacrifice and tradition; the dangers of group-think and blind allegiance to leaders; the demands of conscience and the consequences of cowardice.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, however, reactions began to change.
Haugaard described one classroom discussion that -- to me -- was more disturbing than the story itself. The students had nothing to say except that the story bored them. So Haugaard asked them what they thought about the villagers ritually sacrificing one of their own for the sake of the harvest.
One student, speaking in quite rational tones, argued that many cultures have traditions of human sacrifice. Another said that the stoning might have been part of “a religion of long standing,” and therefore acceptable and understandable.
An older student who worked as a nurse, also weighed in. She said that her hospital had made her take training in multicultural sensitivity. The lesson she learned was this: “If it’s a part of a person’s culture, we are taught not to judge.”
Haugaard’s experience teaches us that it took less than a generation for this catechesis to produce a group of young adults who were unable to take a moral stand against the ritual murder of a young woman. Not because they were cowards. But because they lost their moral vocabulary.
Haugaard’s students seemingly grew up in a culture shaped by practical atheism and moral relativism. In other words, they grew up in an environment that teaches, in many different ways, that God is irrelevant, and that good and evil, right and wrong, truth and falsehood can’t exist in any absolute sense.
This is horrible. A student murdered for wearing a crucifix. And his classmates were egged on by their teacher.
Today the parents of the 17-year-old Christian student Ayman Nabil Labib, broke their silence, confirming that their son was murdered on October 16, in "cold blood because he refused to take off his crucifix as ordered by his Muslim teacher." Nabil Labib, the father, said in a taped video interview with Copts United NGO, that his son had a cross tattooed on his wrist as per Coptic tradition, as well as another cross which he wore under his clothes.
Both parents confirmed that Ayman's classmates, who were present during the assault and whom they met at the hospital and during the funeral, said that while Ayman was in the classroom he was told to cover up his tattooed wrist cross. He refused and defiantly got out the second cross which he wore under his shirt. "The teacher nearly chocked my son and some Muslim students joined in the beating," said his mother.
According to Ayman's father, eyewitnesses told him that his son was not beaten up in the school yard as per the official story, but in the classroom. "They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault. When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later."
"I insist that the Arabic teacher, the headmaster, and the supervisors should be charged as well as the two students who committed the crime," said Nabil. "The Arabic language teacher incited the students to attack my son, the headmaster who would not go to the classroom to see what is going on there when alerted to the beatings, but rather said to be left alone and continued sipping his tea, and the supervisors who failed in their supervising duties."
After the funeral service for Ayman, over 5000 Christians marched along the streets of Mallawi, denouncing the killing of a student whom they described as "Martyr of the Cross," and the repeated killings of Copts in Egypt.
Her shrines can be found in the lairs of the most violent criminal gangs, her worshipers are known to have committed verified human sacrifices, and her cult has spread from secret temples in rural Mexico to almost every large city in America. Santa Muerte — the death goddess of Mexican narco-cults — has arrived in America and established a foothold in our communities that will be impossible to dislodge. While many are rightfully concerned about jihadists crossing our southern border, there is another death cult spreading among us that is just as dangerous as Islamic terrorists.
The origins of the Santa Muerte cult are a mystery even to adherents...Worshipers claim that this “saint” is actually the goddess Mictecacíhuatl, who was said to eat the dead and was worshiped by skinning human sacrifices alive.
Little wonder that the Catholic Church officially describes the veneration of Santa Muerte as devil worship. Still, many Mexicans who consider themselves Catholic make offerings to the black goddess for protection, success, or vengeance.
Santa Muerte shrines have increasingly been found among gang related businesses such as drug trafficking and prostitution rings, especially businesses run by MS-13,the Latin Kings, and the 18th Street gang. The shrines are used both to supernaturally aid the worshipers and to terrorize the communities they are in.
The veneration of Santa Muerte is a magical tradition that has little in the way of moral or philosophical instruction. Instead it simply transmits a series of rites designed to appease a being devotees think is an ancient goddess of death who once demanded people be killed in horrible ways to appease her. And while not all of the cultists commit crimes, a significant number of them come from the ranks of violent gangs, the virulently racist and anti-Semitic Reconquista movement, and impressionable dabblers in the occult seeking thrills.
The saddest story of the last week was the killing of 10 medical aid workers by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Sad not only for the people killed who only wanted to do good, sad for the vacuum left behind of health care not given to countless numbers of Afghans.
Gunmen killed 10 members of a medical team, including six Americans, traveling in the rugged mountains of northern Afghanistan.
The dead have not been officially identified, and the bodies not yet returned to Kabul, but Afghan and Western officials said the victims were thought to be members of a medical team working with a Christian charity group that has decades of experience in Afghanistan. That team, from the International Assistance Mission, lost contact with its office in Kabul on Wednesday, two days before the attack.
The dead have not been officially identified, and the bodies not yet returned to Kabul, but Afghan and Western officials said the victims were thought to be members of a medical team working with a Christian charity group that has decades of experience in Afghanistan. That team, from the International Assistance Mission, lost contact with its office in Kabul on Wednesday, two days before the attack,
The team members -- six Americans, one German, one Briton and four Afghans -- were returning from neighboring Nurestan province, where they had spent several days administering eye care to impoverished villagers. They were traveling unarmed and without security guards, Frans said.
The dead are thought to include the team's leader, Tom Little, an optometrist from New York who had worked in Afghanistan over the past four decades. Little, a fluent Dari speaker, had been thrown out of the country by the Taliban in 2001 during a crackdown on Christian aid groups. Three of the victims are thought to be women, including Karen Woo, a British surgeon who had written on her blog about the possible risks of traveling to the area
The group is registered as a Christian nonprofit organization. Although its members do not shy away from this affiliation in this conservative Muslim country, Frans and others said they do not proselytize.In their work since 1966 on health and economic development projects, under King Zahir Shah, the Russians, the mujaheddin government and the Taliban, Frans said, "all along we've been known as a Christian organization. That has been a nonissue."
"This is truly a bedrock institution in Afghanistan," said Andy M.A. Campbell, the Afghanistan country director for the National Democratic Institute. "They have been around for decades."
Nigerian villagers wailed in the streets as dump trucks carried hundreds of bodies past burned-out homes towards a mass grave.
This was the scene of insurmountable grief after rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 500 people in a revenge attack following religious clashes near Nigeria's city of Jos.
The killers had shown no mercy. They didn't spare women and children, or even a four-day-old baby, from their machetes. In one area alone, five babies and 28 children aged five or less were killed.
Rubber-gloved workers pulled ever-smaller bodies from the dump truck and tossed them into the mass grave.
Some 300 Christian churches have been destroyed in the area around Jos during the past four years. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos described his efforts to have friendly relations with Muslims, the effects of the local imposition of Sharia, and the caution with which he catechizes potential Muslim converts, some of whom “come just because they want to infiltrate.”
The nation of 142.5 million is 15% Catholic.
The governor of the area where the massacre occurred accused the country's military chiefs of ignoring warnings about last weekend's massacre.
Officials said more than 500 people from the mainly Christian Berom ethnic group were hacked to death with machetes, axes and daggers in three villages of Dogo Nahawa, Ratsat and Zot on Sunday morning.
There seems to be a cycle of religious violence that's growing as the country's leadership falters.
Since January, a cycle of violence has erupted in Plateau state and around the city of Jos. Hundreds of civilians have been killed, most recently in a massacre on Sunday of at least 380 Christian villagers. The violence has split along religious lines and calls for independent investigations have not yet been heeded.
Nigeria’s diverse population and recurrent waves of tribal and sectarian violence have imposed a delicate power sharing system between the Muslim northerners and Christian southerners. The presidency rotates between the two communities, although each presidential ticket must include one representative of each. And yet, in the absence of improved governance and with approaching elections, this division of power has perpetuated sectarian politics.
Philip Jenkins. a professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State writes in the Third World War:
In Jos, as in countless other regions across Africa and Asia, violence between Christians and Muslims can erupt at any time, with the potential to detonate riots, civil wars, and persecutions. While these events are poorly reported in the West, they matter profoundly
Uncomfortably for American policymakers, it is a war of religions and beliefs—a battle not for hearts and minds but for souls.
The relationship between Christianity and Islam poses a challenge for at least half of the 20 nations expected to have the world’s largest populations by 2050
One factor driving Islamic militancy in many nations is the sense that Christianity is growing. Outside of the West, evangelism and conversion are two of the most sensitive issues in the modern world.
On June 19, 2009, Pope Benedict inaugurated a "Year for Priests" in celebration of the 150th anniversary of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide.
Because I am just learning about many priests as the year passes. it's all news to me. So, from time to time, I will post about a particular one.
The plan of the president of Mexico was simple: arrest Miguel Pro, bring him before the firing squad, watch him deny his faith in an attempt to save his life, then capture his cowardice on film and thereby disgrace the Church, especially its priests. That was the plan of the president, Plutarco Elias Calles.
The first step of the president’s plan seemed promising. Miguel, a Jesuit priest, was arrested along with his brothers Roberto and Humberto. They were taken to the Mexico City jail, locked in cells, and subjected to frequent questioning. Though unable to prove them guilty of crimes deserving capital punishment, President Calles ordered Padre Pro’s execution, together with his brother Humberto. Moreover, the president invited government officials, members of the press and photographers to be present for the execution to witness and to capture on film the spectacle of disgrace that he was certain was about to occur.
At 10 a.m. on Nov. 23, 1927, the prisoner was taken from his cell and led across the compound to the execution site. Even before he reached the place of his martyrdom, the plan began to unravel. As Padre Pro walked with his crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, one of the policemen who had helped to capture him a few days before broke ranks and approached him with tears, begging the priest to forgive him for his part in the ordeal. Reaching out to him as a brother, Padre Pro said, “Not only do I forgive you, I also give you thanks.”
Upon arrival at the wall of execution, the priest asked permission to pray before being executed. Being granted his wish, he knelt before the wall riddled with bullet holes from previous executions and, clasping the crucifix and the rosary next to his heart, he asked God for the grace of a holy death. Then, he rose, kissed the crucifix, extended his arms in the form of a cross and, facing the firing squad, declared: “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, you know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” Finally, as the firing squad took aim, Padre Pro said in a calm and steady voice, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”
The plan of President Calles was in shambles. The Plan of God, on the other hand, moved full steam ahead. Despite the president’s order that the photographs not be published, they were printed and distributed across the country and indeed around the world. People who had never heard of Miguel Pro now admired him as a martyr. Within days, he had become the most popular priest in Mexico and he remains so even today.
He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. His feast day is Nov 23.
In the southern part of Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, lies 2200 acres with 120 earthen mounds that's been designated a National Historic Site and a World Heritage Site. Cahokia Mounds is the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the Americas, the last remnants of an American Indian people called the Mississippians.
The focus of ongoing archaeological study, Cahokia was once the largest city in America with about 20-40,000 people at its peak. Nobody knows what the original name of the ancient great city on the MIssissippi because the people left no written records.
Andrew O'Hehir brings us up to date with what's been learned from the archaeological studies including the evidence of human sacrifice on a large scale. Sacrificial virgins of the MIssissippi.
At its peak in the 12th century, this settlement along the Mississippi River bottomland of western Illinois, a few miles east of modern-day St. Louis, was probably larger than London, and held economic, cultural and religious sway over a vast swath of the American heartland. Featuring a man-made central plaza covering 50 acres and the third-largest pyramid in the New World (the 100-foot-tall "Monks Mound"), Cahokia was home to at least 20,000 people. If that doesn't sound impressive from a 21st-century perspective, consider that the next city on United States territory to attain that size would be Philadelphia, some 600 years later.
Cahokians performed human sacrifice, as part of some kind of theatrical, community-wide ceremony, on a startlingly large scale unknown in North America above the valley of Mexico. Simultaneous burials of as many as 53 young women (quite possibly selected for their beauty) have been uncovered beneath Cahokia's mounds, and in some cases victims were evidently clubbed to death on the edge of a burial pit, and then fell into it. A few of them weren't dead yet when they went into the pit -- skeletons have been found with their phalanges, or finger bones, digging into the layer of sand beneath them.
What they found at Mound 72.
This mound contained a high-status burial of two nearly identical male bodies, one of them wrapped in a beaded cape or cloak in the shape of a thunderbird, an ancient and mystical Native American symbol. Surrounding this "beaded burial" the diggers gradually uncovered more and more accompanying corpses, an apparent mixture of honorific burials and human sacrifices evidently related to the two important men. It appeared that 53 lower-status women were sacrificed specifically to be buried with the men -- perhaps a harem or a group of slaves from a nearby subject village, Pauketat thinks -- and that a group of 39 men and women had been executed on the spot, possibly a few years later. In all, more than 250 people were interred in and around Mound 72.
The on-line Farsi-language newspaper, Nooroz, reports that hundreds of unidentified dead bodies are being held in Tehran's morgues. One of the few official organs providing information on the detainees is the office of unidentified dead persons, which has summoned some families to various morgues around the city to determine whether their loved ones are among the dead. Nooroz newspaper reports that those families, who find their sons or daughters among the countless corpses, are threatened and pressured into signing statements attesting that their family members died in car crashes or as a result of other ordinary, run of the mill accidents. Unless the families sign these statements, the cherished bodies of their loved ones are withheld from them.
One person who reportedly visited the morgue in south-west Tehran [which in the past had been used only for the storage of fruits and dairy products]reports to Nooroz that she was presented with an album containing hundreds of pictures of the dead and was told to try and find her child among these images. This woman reports that, as she was leaving the morgue, she saw hundreds of dead bodies piled on top of one another.
Amy Wellborn on the death of her husband Michael Dubriel.
There are stages, there are layers, there are bridges. There is a void, my best friend in the world is just - gone. But in this moment I am confronted with the question, most brutally asked, of whether I really do believe all that I say I believe. Into this time of strange, awful loss, Jesus stepped in. He wasted no time. He came immediately. His presence was real and vivid and in him the present and future, bound in love, moved close. The gratitude I felt for life now and forever and what had prepared us for this surged, I was tempted to push it away for the sake of propriety, for what is expected, for what was supposed to be normal - I was tempted to say, “Leave me” instead of accepting the Hand extended to me and to immediately allow him to define my life.
But I did not give into that temptation, and a few hours later I was able to do what I dreaded, what I thought was undoable, to be in a mystery that was both presence and absence and to not be afraid. To not be afraid for him, and for the first time ever in my entire life - to not be afraid for myself , either.
Little Moshe Holtzberg cries for his mother during a memorial service in Mumbai for his parents, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who were taken hostage, tortured and killed by the terrorists during the Mumbai terror attack.
Even the little two-year-old did not avoid a beating as bruises were found on his back. He was rescued by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel who, when the terrorist attack began, locked herself in a room with another staff member. The following morning, she heard little Moshe crying for her and went to look for him. She found him, his pants covered in blood, crying beside the motionless bodies of his parents. She grabbed the baby and ran outside even as the terror attacks on Nairman house continued.
The state of Israel sent a plan to Mumbai to carry back the bodies of the Jewish victims along with little Moshe and his nanny who was the only person the traumatized toddler responded to.
At the funeral in Israel, Rivka's father revealed was six months pregnant.
The rabbi who delivered the eulogy said,
'You don't have a mother who will hug you and kiss you,' Rabbi Kotlarsky cried out during a eulogy that switched back and forth between Hebrew and English. But the community will take care of the boy, he vowed: 'You are the child of all of Israel.'
Swami Laxmananda Saraswat was a senior leader in the VHP, a movement organized in 1964 to organize and preserve the Hindu world from Communism, Islam and Christianity. In 1992 they demolished the Babri Mosque. Muslim mobs rioted and over 900 people were killed across the country. In 2002 there were more riots and some 2000 were killed in what came to be called the Gujarat violence. Mobs attacked Christians in December 2007, burning shops and churches forcing 700 Indian Christians to flee.
On August 23, the Swami and four associates were found murdered in their monastery. The police suspected the Communists Maoists who later took responsibility for the murder.
In a horrifying display of week-long violence in Orissa, believing the Christians were to blame mobs went on a horrifying rampage of murder and arson, a "religious cleansing" as it were.
26 people killed in week-long violence in Orissa although the real death toll may be as close to 100 as more butchered bodies are found. Some 4000 Christian homes, churches and convents were burned by Hindu fanatics. One twenty-year old Christian girl Rajini escaped from the flames only to be tied up and thrown back in the fire.
One pregnant woman who refused to denounce her faith in Christ was cut into pieces before her husband and other Christians.
A Catholic nun was burnt alive and another nun was gang-raped by Hindu fundamentalists.
One priest who escaped describes his ordeal
They had poured kerosene on my head, and one held a matchbox in his hands to light the fire. But thanks to divine providence, in the end, they did not do that. Otherwise, I would not have been there to tell this horror,"
"They vandalized everything and set it on fire. It has been reduced to ashes," he added.
"They began our crucifixion parade," said Father Chellen. The gang of about 50 armed Hindus "beat us up and led us like culprits along the road" to the burned pastoral center.
"There they tore my shirt and started pulling off the clothes of the nun. When I protested, they beat me hard with iron rods. Later, they took the sister inside (and) raped her while they went on kicking and teasing me, forcing (me) to say vulgar words," said the priest who has cuts, bruises and swollen tissue all over his body and stitches on his face.
"Later both of us, half-naked, were taken to the street, and they ordered me to have sex with the nun in public, saying nuns and priests do it. As I refused, they went on beating me and dragged us to the nearby government office. Sadly, a dozen policemen were watching all this," he said.
Angry at his plea to the police for help, the mob beat the bleeding priest again.
Today, there is an almost complete collapse of the police force and the Orissa violence forces 60,000 Christians to take refuge in the forests.
The blog Orissa Burning is keeping witness to the ongoing torture and murder of Christians in Orissa and doing a fine job of keeping us informed.
What is at the bottom of all this outrage against Christians? An Indian archbishop says the Christians' offense is fighting against slavery -
the work that Christians in Orissa are carrying out on behalf of the tribals and the Dalits, at the very bottom of the caste system:
"Before, they were like slaves. Now, some of them study in our schools, start businesses in the villages, demand their rights. And those who – even in the India of the economic boom – want to keep intact the old division into castes are afraid that they will gain too much power. Orissa today is a laboratory. What is at stake is the future of millions of Dalits and tribals living all over the country."