“Last year, the number of armed conflicts in the world increased markedly, with the strongest increase taking place in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is the conclusion in a new report by researchers at the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), published in the Journal of Peace Research. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has presented the statistics to the UN General Assembly in his report on international mediation.
The conflict data stems from the internationally recognized conflict data program at the University of Uppsala (UCDP). For almost 10 years, UCDP has published an annual conflict update in collaboration with the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and PRIOs Journal of Peace Research.
Following a year (2010) that signaled hope for a more peaceful development, the number of conflicts increased by nearly 20 percent, from 31 to 37. Last year’s jump in conflicts deviates from the long-term trend line, which shows that the world is gradually becoming more peaceful.
‘It should be pointed out, however, that even though we have now witnessed the largest increase between any two years since 1990, the number of conflicts is still far below the peak levels of the early 1990s,’ says Professor Peter Wallensteen, head of the UCDP. At the peak 53 armed conflicts were active.
2011 also saw an increase in the most severe conflicts. Six conflicts were categorized as wars, passing the level of at least 1,000 battle-related deaths. This is up from four in 2010. While the wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, and Somalia have received much media attention, the intense conflicts in Sudan and Yemen have been less covered.
‘The increase in the category of the most deadly conflicts is disquieting,’ says Lotta Themnér, project leader at UCDP.
The growth in conflicts is not primarily a reflection of the Arab Spring. Only in Libya and Syria did the unrest develop into organized armed conflicts. The strongest growth has happened in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the shade of the Arab Spring events. Armed conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa have increased by 50 % in only one year, from 10 in 2010 to 15 in 2011. – This is a grave development for a region that desperately needs stability and development, says Helge Holtermann, PRIO researcher and Managing Editor of the Journal of Peace Research.
The partition of Sudan has caused new conflicts, while former conflicts in Nigeria and Senegal have reemerged. Adding to the bad news from 2011 is the fact that only one new peace agreement was signed. This is the lowest number since 1987.” Read more.
The country has vast undeclared stockpiles of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide, according to the report. American officials have different opinions regarding the logic behind the decision to move the chemical weapons out of storage.
‘Some U.S. officials fear Damascus intends to use the weapons against the rebels or civilians, potentially as part of a targeted ethnic cleansing campaign,’ writes the Journal. Others said strongman Bashar Assad ‘may be trying to safeguard the material from his opponents or to complicate Western powers’ efforts to track the weapons.’
Another opinion was that Assad is moving the weapons as a feint, ‘hoping the threat of a chemical attack could drive Sunnis thought to be sympathetic to the rebels from their homes.’ Yet another assessment is that the move is connecte with a plan Assad has, to create an enclave controlled and populated only by his Alawite minority sect.
‘This could set the precedent of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] being used under our watch,’ a U.S. official said. ‘This is incredibly dangerous to our national security.’
‘This is absolutely ridiculous and untrue,’ said Syria’s foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, in response to the report. ‘If the U.S. is so well-informed, why can’t they help [U.N. envoy] Kofi Annan in stopping the flow of illegal weapons to Syria in order to end the violence and move towards the political solution?’
Officials said that if Assad uses chemical weapons, Western allies would probably go ahead with plans to intervene in the Syrian civil war more aggressively than they have until now and topple him from power.” Source – INN.
Israel Preparing for Action in Syria, Says Former Mossad Chief – “Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom said on Thursday that Israel is preparing for the possibility of military action in Syria, in case its chemical weapons were to end up in the hands of Hizbullah or other terrorist organizations in the region. Yatom spoke to the British Sky News, which reported that Israel is deeply concerned that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad may deliberately give Hizbullah chemical weapons or that they could end up in the hands of other terror groups In either case, this could lead to a regional war …” Read more.
Iran: Authorities Close Down Church Properties, Christians Threatened With ‘Severe Consequenes’ If They Try To Enter
By Joseph DeCaro – “TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)– Both the Central Assembly of God Church in Tehran and its summer campsite have been closed by the Islamic authorities, according to the Farsi Christian News Network.
Officers of the Revolutionary Guards closed the Jennat-Abad Church along with its campsite, the ‘Garden of Sharon,’ once a popular site for Christian gatherings and conferences; eye witnesses’ reported a large notice posted on the gates warning of severe consequences should anyone try to enter the premises.
These latest closures follow the official termination of Friday Persian (Farsi) language services and the compulsory cancellation of all Bible classes as well as any distribution of Christian literature.
After the Iranian New Year celebrations, Islamic state security insisted that church leaders reveal the National ID numbers of their congregations, causing some to stop attending services.” Source – Worthy News.\
Flashback: ‘A New Wave Of Persecution’: Former Revolutionary Guard Member Describes The Crackdown On Christians In Iran – “According to the Daily Caller, the regime has ordered Iranian intelligence to infiltrate church groups in major Iranian cities. Agents are identifying pastors and other Christians, targeting them for arrest and torture in prison. Former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Reza Kahlili, verified the crackdown. He said Iran’s ayatollahs are frustrated with the large number of Muslims who are now embracing Christianity …” Read more.
By SAHAR BADRAN – “Violence remains a fact of life in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, nine years after US forces deposed Saddam Hussein. While all sects have fallen victim to relentless bombing and shooting attacsk, members of the city’s once-numerous Christian community say they are being singled out.
Two waves of killings and intimidation in 2008 and 2010 sent Christians fleeing from Mosul in such haste that the United Nations had to arrange emergency assistance. Umm Ishwa, 50, abandoned the city for a safer village even earlier, and has stayed there since.
‘We left Mosul when my son, a doctor, was assassinated near his clinic in 2006,’ she told dpa. Mosul, 400 kilometres north of the capital Baghdad, remains one of the most violent places in Iraq despite a government security campaign. The authorities admit they still have much to do.
‘Attacks targeting Christians in the city are still continuing, in addition to daily violence,’ says General Ahmad Mohammed al-Jabouri, director general of the Mosul police. ‘And that is despite the security measures that have been taken, which include deploying all kinds of security as well as a special intelligence effort.’
‘Between 2005 and 2011,’ al-Jabouri explained, ‘our operational command recorded the assassination of some 69 Christians, including university students, priests, female employees and housewives. The last attack targeting Christians was in March 2012 when armed men killed a Christian man, his wife and injured a four-year-old child.’
‘We are working to bring about a quiet life for the Christians,’ he adds.
Some 25,000 Christians lived in Mosul, which with a total population of almost 2 million is Iraq’s second-largest city. Many more live in the surrounding Nineveh province.” Read more.
Flashback: Iraq’s ‘Twilight of Christianity’: Fleeing Islamic Extremism, Exodus From North Signals Iraqi Christians’ Slow Decline – “Iraq’s dwindling Christians, driven from their homes by attacks and intimidation, are beginning to abandon the havens they had found in the country’s north, discouraged by unemployment and a creeping fear that the violence they had fled was catching up to them. Their quiet exodus to Turkey, Jordan, Europe and the United States is the latest chapter of a seemingly inexorable decline that many religious leaders say tolls the twilight of Christianity in a land where city skylines have long been marked by both minarets and church steeples. Recent assessments say that Iraq’s Christian population has now fallen by more than half since the 2003 American invasion, and with the military’s departure, some Christians say they lost a protector of last resort.” Read more.
Canada: Police Instructed To Bow Down To Islam, Avoid Terms Like ‘Islamist’ And ‘Jihad’ When Referring To Terrorism
‘Distorted and inflammatory linkages between Islam and terrorism can serve to convince Muslims — both in the West and in the larger Islamic world — that the West is, in fact, their enemy,’ the manual says.
That doesn’t impress anti-terror expert David Harris, of Insignis Strategic Research.
‘This is, if I may be blunt, an Islamist’s wet dream,’ Harris said. ‘It misstates fundamentally the established history, and undermines warnings of many moderate Muslims about jihad and its possibilities.’
The manual, called Words Make Worlds, dates back to 2009 and also tells Mounties not to fear organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, despite its terrorist links.
American anti-terror expert Brian Michael Jenkins says cultural sensitivity is often appropriate, but the RAND Corp. advisor adds that terms the RCMP dislikes are needed to analyze security threats.
‘The term ‘jihad’ is on the banner of al-Qaida,’ says Jenkins. ‘If they use it, I can use it.’
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has openly called ‘Islamicism’ a threat to Canada, while Public Safety Canada’s counter-terrorism strategy refers to ‘Islamist extremism.’
Still, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he doesn’t consider the RCMP’s soft language on terror a concession to Islam.
‘I think it’s a matter of moving sensitively in what is an area where we need the co-operation of these groups,’ he said in Winnipeg.
The RCMP had no one available for comment.” Source – Ifp.
“(ANSAmed) – ANKARA – The Mongolians failed to destroy it 700 years ago despite the massacre of 40 friars and 400 Christians. Yet the existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, the fifth century Mor Gabriel Monastery in the Tur Abdin plane (the mountain of God’s servants) near the Turkish-Syrian border, is at risk after a ruling by Turkey’s highest appeals court in Ankara.
Founded in 397 by the monks Samuel and Simon, Mor Gabriel in eastern Anatolia has been the heart of the Orthodox Syrian community for centuries. Syriacs hail from a branch of Middle Eastern Christianity and are one of the oldest communities in Turkey.
Today the monastery is inhabited by Mor Timotheus Samuel Aktash, 3 monks, 11 nuns and 35 boys who are learning the monastery’s teachings, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus and the Orthodox Syriac tradition.
Although the monastery is situated in an area at the centre of conflicts between Kurdish separatist with the armed PKK group and the Turkish army, Mor Gabriel welcomes 20,000 pilgrims every year.
The Syriac Orthodox community – estimated to be 2.5 million across the world – is under the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch and considers the monastery a ‘second Jerusalem’.
The monastery’s reputation 1500 years ago was such that Roman Emperors Arcadius, Theodosius and Onorio built new buildings around it and enriched it with art and mosaics. But in the past 150 years Mor Gabriel has gone through a decline after the massacres of Christians by nationalists at the end of the 19th century – 3,000 Christians were burnt to death in Edessa’s Cathedral in 1895 – and clashes between Turks and Kurds in the area during World War I.” Read more.