Religion is very much in the news these days.
Donald Trump, the leading contender for the Republican nomination in the US, made a somewhat disparaging remark about Dr. Ben Carson’s religious affiliation. Carson is the closest rival to Trump. Whereas Trump is a mainstream Presbyterian, Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist. Mr. Trump said he knew nothing about the SDA’s, but said it in such a way that it made the church and its members decidedly odd.
For the record the Seventh Day Adventists share many beliefs in common with the Presbyterians and other mainstream Christian denominations. The difference between them is that the SDA’s worship on the seventh day (Saturday) as Jesus did.
Coincidentally, the new President of Fiji is a Seventh Day Adventist. His role is largely a ceremonial role, similar to that played by Queen Elizabeth, who was Fiji’s Head of State until 1987.
Four years ago, in the United States, Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, was a factor in the election. It was not to his favor.
It’s a pity leaders do not heed the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Each individual needs to work on his own relationship with God. Christians should be careful not to judge others who may hold to a different Christian tradition.
It’s not just Christian beliefs that have come up in this election. Earlier in the current election campaign the issue of a Muslim president came up. Neither of the two leading contenders was in favor, but the issue gave the media an opportunity to once again portray both men in a negative light.
Meanwhile, across the pond, the Hungarian Prime Minister has again expressed the fear that the flood of immigrants arriving in Europe will destroy the continent’s Christian (i.e. Catholic) roots.
Europe certainly does have Christian roots, but there is little evidence of those roots these days, as most people have embraced secular humanism. Only Russia’s leader seems to hold any serious Christian beliefs. Fortunately, he seems set on saving Christians in the Middle East from Islamic extremism.
In today’s USA Today, an article carries the headline, “Under ISIL’s brutal rule, Iraqis are in constant fear,” written by Kiran Nazish. A schoolteacher who escaped last month is quoted as observing: “In more than one year, the Islamic State has created a society where it’s normal for children to watch their elders being murdered by them.”
If you didn’t get it the first time, be sure to read that sentence again. What it’s saying is that children are watching other children murder adults. Other articles in recent months have claimed that children not only shoot adults, they are even being trained to behead them. This is the kind of world we now live in.
Fearful of Islam and those refugees from Islamic lands crossing their borders, Poles voted yesterday for a more conservative government. This is likely to be a trend across Europe as people put security at the top of their concerns.
By far the worst and most serious religious conflict has flared up again in Jerusalem, where Palestinians have been waging a renewed intifada against Israel. The first intifada was in 1987. They are trying to drive the Jews out of the West Bank. If they succeed, it would be a prelude to driving them into the sea.
Palestinians have been angry over the Israelis not allowing young men on to the Temple Mount, which they call Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). It’s also a part of the general frustration they feel after seventy years of the nation of Israel.
Meanwhile, an old issue has resurfaced – the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during World War II.
“Philadelphia, PA – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn criticism for comments about the role of al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in conceiving and perpetrating the Holocaust. Indeed, leading Nazi aides testified that al-Husaini was one of the instigators of the genocide. In his 1999 autobiography, a senior Nazi official admitted how he advised Hitler and other leading Nazis, and that he acquired full knowledge of the ongoing mass murder.
Middle East Forum scholar, historian, and author Wolfgang G. Schwanitz added, “It is a historical fact that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini was an accomplice whose collaboration with Adolf Hitler played an important role in the Holocaust. He was the foremost extra-European adviser in the process to destroy the Jews of Europe.” (“Mufti Advised Hitler on Holocaust”, Middle East Forum, October 21st.)
The Mufti’s successor, Sheikh Muhammed Ahmad Hussein, is now saying that the Temple Mount never housed a Jewish Temple and that the al-Aqsa mosque has been there “since the creation of the world” (Times of Israel, Monday).
If these words were intended to be the last word on the most disputed piece of real estate in the world, he may be surprised at the reaction.
The latest uprising by Palestinian youth has led to the murder of Jews on the streets of Jerusalem. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now allowing Palestinian youths on to the Temple Mount, even though it poses a security risk.
There are increasing calls from religious and regional leaders for international supervision of the Temple Mount.
To think that fifty years ago, when I was a teenager, it was widely thought that religion and religious conflict were things of the past!