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By Nithin Sridhar
The rise of ISIS in Iraq that has resulted in massive migration and persecution of Christians from Middle East may eventually lead to an end of Christianity in Middle East.
A report published in The New York Times magazine says: “ISIS is looking to eradicate Christians and other minorities altogether. The group twists the early history of Christians in the region — their subjugation by the sword — to legitimize its millenarian enterprise.
Recently, ISIS posted videos delineating the second-class status of Christians in the caliphate. Those unwilling to pay the jizya tax or to convert would be destroyed, the narrator warned, as the videos culminated in the now infamous scenes of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians in Libya being marched onto the beach and beheaded, their blood running into the surf.”
The report gives a brief history of Christianity in Middle East and how Christians have faced persecution over many centuries. The Christians in Iraq trace their roots to Mesopotamian empires that ruled the lands between Tigris River and Euphrates River around 1000 years before Jesus Christ and therefore they started calling themselves by various names such as Assyrians, Syriac etc. According to traditional beliefs, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, sent Thaddeus to Mesopotamia to spread Christianity there.
From then on till present, Christianity has co-existed with other faiths like Judaism, Zoroastrianism and other faiths of communities like Druze, Yazidis and Mandeans. But, the Christian community is divided among themselves into Catholics, Eastern, Orthodox and Assyrian Church of the East.
When Islam arrived into Iraq around 7th century, there was a gradual shift from Christianity into Islam. But, the Eastern Christians had to live as dimmis– those who were allowed to practice their faith but had to pay jizya tax. With the fall of Ottoman Empire and the beginning of World War I, violence and persecution of Christians erupted in Middle East. The Young Turks killed around 2 million Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, most of whom were Christians.
In countries like Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, the Christian population has seen a continuous decline over last 100 years. The Christians once comprised 14 per cent of the population. But, today they are only 4 per cent. In Lebanon, where Christians have considerable political influence, their population share has reduced from 78 per cent to just 34 per cent. Hostile political environment, low birthrate and rise of extremist groups have all contributed to the decline of Christianity.
After the US intervention in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Christians had to flee due to extremists attack on them. The report quotes Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil as saying: “Since 2003, we’ve lost priests, bishops and more than 60 churches were bombed.” The Christian population in Iraq was 1.5 million in 2003. But, today it is less than 500 thousand.
Now with Arab Spring toppling dictators like Mubarak in Egypt and Qaddafi in Libya who had protected minorities, the persecution and decline of Christians and other minorities has increased. Now with the rise of ISIS, the future of Christianity in Middle East is very bleak and uncertain. The report quotes Nuri Kino, a journalist and founder of the advocacy group Demand for Action: “How much longer can we flee before we and other minorities become a story in a history book.”
One of the main routes taken by those who are fleeing Iraq goes through Lebanon. Recently, when ISIS assaulted and kidnapped 230 people for ransom, thousands of Christians from villages in north-eastern Syria along the Khabur River fled and took shelter in Lebanon. The ISIS is demanding a ransom of $ 100,000 for each of the 230 captives i.e. a total of $ 23 million.
The situation is not good in Syria either. Since, 2011, when civil war broke out, around one third of the Syrian Christians had no choice but to flee the country as they were forced out by extremist groups like Nusra Front and now by ISIS. The report quotes BassamIshaya and his family who have fled Syria due to ISIS threat, as saying: “Christians will all leave. What can I do? I have four kids, I can’t leave them here to die.”
David Saperstein, the United States ambassador at large for religious freedom has said: “To see these communities, primarily Christians, but also the Yazidis and others, persecuted in such large numbers is deeply alarming”.
But US has been criticized for not doing enough to help Christians and other refugees. The US has given an aid of $ 416 million since October 2013. The amount is not enough when compared to what is needed.
It has already admitted around 122,000 refugees from Iraq, 40 per cent of whom belong to oppressed minorities. But David Saperstein says: “There are limits to what the international community can do.”
The report quotes Eshoo, the Democratic congresswoman as saying: “The average time for admittance to the United States is more than 16 months, and that’s too long. Many will die.” She is striving to establish priority refugee status for minorities who want to leave Iraq.
The role of Christians in Middle East is not limited to being a minority religious group. In Lebanon for example, they have played a powerful and influential role in the government and have acted as buffer between Shia and Sunni Muslim populations. But, today with Christianity weakening, the Shia and Sunni divide is widening and is threatening to result in huge bloodshed.
In Northern Iraq, the Assyrian Christians have formed five militia groups to fight against ISIS. Nineveh Plain Forces (a unit of 500 members), DwekhNawsha (100 members) and Nineveh Plains Protection Units (300 members) aim to protect their people and liberate Christian lands from ISIS.
The other two militia groups are Syriac Military Council and Babylonian Brigades. But these militias’ operations are under the command of Kurdish peshmerga. The Christian militia must ask their permission even to travel 1000 yards between their base and forward posts.
The future of Christians and other minorities is not looking good even if ISIS were to be defeated and wiped out. The report quotes Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute, a conservative policy center, as saying that the situation in Iraq is so horrible that Iraqi Christians must be allowed to have full residency in Kurdistan or must be helped to leave.
Rev. Emanuel Youkhana, the head of Christian Aid Program, Northern Iraq is quoted as saying: “For the first time in 2,000 years, there are no church services in Mosul. The West comes up with one solution by granting visas to a few hundred people. What about a few hundred thousand?” He added: “Iraq is a forced marriage between Sunni, Shia, Kurds and Christians, and it failed. Even I, as a priest, favor divorce.”
Amidst such demands for safe haven within Iraq for minorities, the future of Christianity and Christians looks very bleak.
When it comes to our day-to-day life, there are several things which help us enhance our day with every step. One such thing is music. It enhances, motivates and boosts certain aspects of our personality in ways that may not come into notice. There have been several researches on how music affects human brain. Studies show it helps us in recovery and healing, and also, encouraging us to be better if exposed to the right kind and fit.
From kids to elderly, music as a commodity, can be consumed by all. It is the universal language that is spoken by each and every being, from animals to humans to plants, each respond to it in their own ways. Suffice to say, we are united by music and the effect it has over us. Plants, for example, grow better when exposed to good music. Many songs are being composed specifically to enhance and boost their growth. Same is the case for humans. For humans, the right kind of music can boost good health, physically as well as mentally. You might have noticed how in gyms, upbeat music is played. That is to channel energy into everyone present. It adds to the workout. Several researches around the world have shown better physical output when exposed to appropriate music. Fast paced songs with upbeat nature channeled speed and the slower ones slowed downs the listeners, without them noticing. The sub-conscious effects of music are continuously being studied.
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Our heart starts beating according to the music we are listening to.Unsplash
Listening to upbeat or happy music also reduces stress and pressure from our minds. Many people become relaxed while listening to calming music. This is why calming sounds are used during a yoga session. Classical music seems to have the same calming and soothing effect. Furthermore, classical music has much more advantages over metal or techno music, it has proven to enhance learning and improve sleep in its listeners. A study was conducted in which participants were divided in groups where one group was exposed to classical music, another to metal and last one was supervised without any music. The group exposed to classical music showed healthier sleeping pattern than the rest.
Also Read: Undiscovered Music Trends For Indian Music
Several brands and outlets encash on different characteristics of music. Calm and soothing music is used in spas to help customer relax. It is a known fact that our heart starts beating according to the music we are listening to. So, music with faster beats will have our heart beating faster and the slow one will have calmer effect. This is why slow music channels calm. And the same fact has led to faster and upbeat music being played in food outlets. A study conducted in a farm, where people were invited to have food, where one half was exposed to slower music and for other fast-paced music was played. Not only did the group exposed to fast-music ate faster but also ate more than the group who ate in slower one. Next time you are in a food outlet or a restaurant observe the kind of music they are playing and the eating pattern.
Music can even be a facilitator of communication. We can sometimes convey our thoughts through the medium of a song. Sometimes someone’s words justify our inner feelings better than us. Or sometimes a song brings back certain memory or a place, and takes us to that certain moment. To say music is a time-machine would not be wrong. It is a dynamic blessing that can be used throughout our lives.
Key Words: Music, Calm, Soothing, Effects of Music
As more and more people are acknowledging the importance of their mental well-being, the wave of awareness the acknowledgment has brought is unprecedented. It may not have paved a clear path towards complete healing but it certainly has shown the way. The awareness is the key to heal. Healing begins only after the problem is identified. Similar to physical illness, the identification of the problem area is the first step. Even in case of a minor wound, when we go to the hospital the nurse first locates the wound. They, then, ask how we got hurt and identify the nature of the wound. Only then, they clean, put ointment and wrap it up if it needs wrapping and protection from air and dust. Sometimes, that protection is not needed. The wound heals out in the open. Same goes when it comes to healing of a mental trauma or illness. Sometimes, we confine in professionals or our loved ones, in order to let it out and process it openly. Sometimes, the trauma reduces with time. In any way, being aware and vigilant is the way to go.
Being knowledgeable about life in general, opens many channels for you. Being knowledgeable about yourself, opens gates inside you that lead to spiritual and general awareness about the concept of self. And the inner awareness is not necessarily internal, it can be seen from the outside as well. When we have positive energy from within it radiates physically as well. Have you encountered someone who’s spiritually awakened and aware? Do they stand out in the crowd? There are prominent examples of people who have made their mark in history, there is Swami Vivekanada, his awakening has revolutionised generations, one live example we can witness is The Dalai Lama.
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Healing is part of the spiritual journey.Unsplash
Also Read: Follow These Tips For a Better Mental Health
Awareness is the first step towards the staircase of spirituality. Healing is part of that journey. In our world, we go by our lives without paying much attention to causes of our actions. Every little thing we do, we do it for a reason. We might be suffering without being aware of it. There might be certain actions which are screaming those are trauma-response and not really us. But we go by our days, without paying heed to the fact that it really is the small actions that carry weightage in our lives. When we become attentive and thoughtful with what we do, we introspect, and then act. Thoughtless actions do not bear much fruit anyway. Thoughtfulness not only benefits us personally, but makes world a better place to live in. It really is the need of the hour to introspect every little doing and if it does not fit with the idea of self, then, it is time to find the root cause of what has us where we are.
Being self-aware is crucial as a human quality as well. When we face our problems, we gain experience, that experience leads us to understand and empathise with others’ sufferings too. It is a wholesome development.
Key Words: Self-awareness, Spirituality, Thoughtfulness, Mental Health
Honestly, who hasn’t watched one of the epic series of HBO– Game of Thrones?
There’s no question that when the first episode of Game of Thrones was released on April 11, 2011, the youth population of the world became exuberant. The main reasons behind this reaction was, first, the theme of the show, and second, the hidden lessons which it put forward.
Some of the valuable lessons which the Game of Thrones taught us are:
1. The pack always survives. This aptly meant that whether your pack consists of your family or your friends, you are the strongest when you are surrounded by a support system. This is what Ned Stark taught his children, to be together when “the winter comes”.
2. Never forget who you truly are. One of the most important lessons was given by Tyrion Lannister. He taught us that we should never forget who we really are. This means that we must not forget our bad habits and where we lack. So, once we know who we are, no one could ever use our lagging points against us.
3. Reading is necessary. Tyrion Lannister said, “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” There is absolutely no denying that reading is not a habit now-a-days, but a necessity. If you want to be sharp and smart, then you must devote sometime to books, for they would teach you a lot!
4. Always pay your debts. Well, one of the most philosophical and learned houses if Game of Thrones is House Lannister. And so, one of the sayings of their house is, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” From here we get another life lesson that we must always pay off what we owe from people.
5. Always believe, “You know nothing.” Ygritte said this to Jon Snow in a teasing manner. But, this is actually for all those who believe that they know each and everything. Well, never believe that you know everything. Always learn from new experiences and never hesitate to take advice from others.
So, these were five most significant lessons which the series Game of Thrones offered us. In reality, we all are aware of these lessons, but we never really work upon them. But now, let’s try to understand each lesson and become the heir someday!
Keywords: Entertainment, Game of Thrones, HBO, Series, Youth, Lessons.