"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Thursday, July 31, 2014

US Sells $11bn Worth of Arms to Qatar

Or, She May not be Cheap, but She Sure is Easy (see post immediately below)

Washington and Doha have signed the largest arms deal of the year, preparing to enhance Qatar’s military capabilities with $11 billion-worth of Apache assault helicopters, PAC-2 missile defense complexes and Javelin man-portable anti-tank missiles.

The deal has been signed on Monday in Pentagon by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Qatari Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah. Altogether Qatar is buying 10 batteries of Patriot missile defense systems and 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles manufactured by US defense industry giants Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and 24 Apache helicopters made by Boeing, an anonymous US official told the AFP.

The Patriot complexes with 247 PAC-3 missiles cost over $7 billion, the Apache helicopters and related gear are worth over $3 billion, and the Javelin anti-tank missiles cost additional $100 million.

“Today's signing ceremony underscores the strong partnership between the United States and Qatar in the area of security and defense and will help improve our bilateral cooperation across a range of military operations,” said in a statement Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Qatar is the key US ally in the Persian Gulf region and home to the US Al-Udeid Air Base, with the headquarters of US Central Command (USCC) and US Air Force Central Command (USAFCC) stationed there. Al-Udeid - what a name, especially for guys named Al.
Patriot Advanced Capability-2 anti-missile launcher
Last December US and Qatar signed a 10-year Defense Cooperation Agreement ensuring presence of American troops at the military installations in the area, including the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, and closer interaction between American and Qatari armed forces. The agreement was signed in Qatar by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Qatari Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah.

“This is a critically important relationship in the region,” Kirby said. “And the secretary is pleased to be able to continue to make it stronger.”

Pentagon claims that new order from Qatar will create 54,000 jobs in the US.
A U.S. soldier explains the Javelin anti-tank missle
It has been a priority for the US in recent years to improve the air defenses of American allies in the Persian Gulf, remaining “the defense provider of choice” for Qatar and other Gulf States, the same anonymous official informed the AFP.

Qatar is investing in missile defense systems because of the missile arsenal of Iran across the Persian Gulf, the official said. Tehran possesses multiple missiles capable of reaching Qatar in case of a regional conflict.

Qatari authorities have been acting as intermediary when it comes to organizing negotiations between the Taliban in Afghanistan, and American and Afghan governments after a Taliban office opened in Qatar last summer ahead of renewed talks.
Apache Assault Helicopter
In January this year, another set of secret negotiations between the Karzai government and Taliban took place in the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar also contributed to the US-Taliban deal that ended in release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on May 31 this year. Bergdahl, who spent five years as a Taliban POW, was delivered to Qatar in exchange for the release five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay US detention facility in Cuba.

There have been reports that Qatar has been actively participating in a number of conflicts in recent years, such as ousting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the ongoing civil war in Syria.

Don't forget their funding of Hamas in their relentless bombing of Israel (see post below). Is Qatar a friend or foe? The US administration obviously considers it a friend even though it is helping facilitate a war with an American ally. What's up with that?

The Ugly Complexities of Political Prostitution

Or, How Qatar learned to love the bomb.

The oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar’s influence has been widely felt during the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. 

While traditionally closely aligned with Iran, Hamas has pivoted to Sunni powers like Qatar and Turkey in recent years for economic and political support. Keen to expand its regional and international influence, Qatar’s ties to the Palestinian terrorist group have drawn increasing criticism from Israel, the United States, and even fellow Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who accuse Qatar of undermining regional stability by supporting Hamas. 

“Qatar is a very strange place. They rely on the U.S. for protection and invest heavily in the U.S.,” said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), noting that the U.S. has its largest Mideast airbase—Al-Udeid Air Base—in Qatar.
Al-Udeid US Air Base—in Qatar
“[But] at the same time, just miles away from [the airbase], you can find the head of Hamas (Khaled Mashal), and there was even a Taliban embassy there for a while too. All of these things make for a foreign-policy anomaly,” Schanzer told JNS.org. Anomally? More like schizophrenia!

With the war raging in Gaza, Israeli leaders have begun to single out Qatar for its support of Hamas. During a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 23, now-former Israeli President Shimon Peres slammed Qatar for becoming “the world’s largest funder of terror.”

“Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians. Their funding of terror the must stop. If they want to build then they should, but they must not be allowed to destroy,” Peres said.

Qatar reportedly pledged more than $400 million to Hamas in October 2012 during a visit to Gaza by Qatar’s ruling emir at the time, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Susan Ziadeh
upon his arrival in Doha, Qatar, on June 22, 2014
Qatar has also given refuge to Hamas chief Mashaal, who fled to Qatar’s capital of Doha after Hamas’s offices in Damascus were shut down in 2012 as a result of the terror group’s criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s conduct in the Syrian civil war.

More recently, the U.S. blocked the transfer of Qatari funds that were slated to pay the salaries of civil servants hired by Hamas in Gaza, the Times of Israel reported.

According to a diplomatic source in Qatar, the Gulf state in June attempted to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to an Arab bank for the salaries of 44,000 Hamas civil servants who were rendered jobless due to the recent Palestinian unity deal between Hamas and Fatah.

The attempted transfer of funds by Qatar to pay Hamas employees highlighted the dire economic situation Hamas has found itself in over the last year due to Egypt destroying Hamas’s smuggling tunnels, which the terror group relied on for tax revenue.

Egypt’s crackdown on Hamas has been part of a larger effort by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to target the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organization.

But El-Sisi is not alone in his contempt for the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia also declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization this March. At the same time, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain all recalled their ambassadors to Qatar over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Egypt also recently sentenced three journalists from the Qatari-funded Al Jazeera satellite news network to seven to 10 years in prison for “spreading false news and conspiring” with the Muslim Brotherhood.  

Al Jazeera broadcast center
“Qatar’s vocal foreign policy developed with Al Jazeera. Qatar had a point of view and, after 1995 and the launch of Al Jazeera, began increasingly and gradually to express it,” Joseph LeBaron, the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar from 2008-2011, told JNS.org.

LeBaron explained that Qatar, like most Arab countries, does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist group. Just because they want to obliterate every living Jew doesn't make them terrorists, just Muslims.

“In terms of Hamas, Qatar’s policy of dialogue can lead to direct support, whether political and diplomatic, economic, or humanitarian,” he said. “But Qatar’s policy also is not to support terror groups. Qatar would not support Hamas if it believed Hamas was a terror group.”

Nevertheless, Qatar’s unyielding support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas has created a deep rift in the Arab world. 

Egypt, which has traditionally played a role as a mediator for the Israelis and Palestinians, accused Qatar and Turkey of undermining its efforts to broker a cease-fire to the current conflict in Gaza.

In a statement on July 17, shortly after Egypt’s initial cease-fire proposal was rejected by Hamas, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said that Palestinian blood was on Hamas’s hands.

“Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian initiative, at least 40 Palestinian souls would have been saved,” said Shukri, the Egyptian state-run news outlet MENA reported. Saved? Not likely, but maybe still alive.

The Arab power struggle has continued, with Qatar reportedly offering its own cease-fire plan that excluded Egypt from the negotiating process, before the Israeli ground operation began on July 17.

Yet regional divisions appeared to thaw a bit on July 22, when Qatari Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to discuss cease-fire efforts.

“There are strained relations, obviously, but so far that tension has been restricted largely to the diplomatic sphere. Because it has, I am optimistic that the Arab states will gradually find a way to accommodate one another’s differing foreign policy approaches toward regional issues,” former U.S. ambassador LeBaron told JNS.org.

FDD’s Schanzer blamed the growing Arab rift, which is largely between U.S. allies in the Middle East, on the lack of strong U.S. leadership in the region.

The White House right now is doing its best to extricate itself from the Middle East,” he said.

“We are setting a low bar for our allies; we are not demanding a certain level of responsibility [such as demanding that countries not support terrorist groups like Hamas]. The fact that we allow this is troubling,” added Schanzer.

Some U.S. legislators, however, have sought to pressure Qatar over its Hamas ties.

Last year, two-dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives, spearheaded by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and John Barrow (D-GA), sent a letter to Qatari Ambassador to the U.S. Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al-Rumaihi, urging the country to end its support of Hamas.

“As Israel works to achieve a cease-fire and sustainable quiet, it doesn’t help that others in the region, such as Qatar and Iran, are undermining the peace process by helping Hamas fire thousands of rockets at innocent civilians,” Barrow told JNS.org.

LeBaron said he believes the U.S. will continue to engage with Qatar.

The United States and Qatar have long recognized that they will not always agree, far from it, but since 2010 this realization has not led either side to isolate the other. You don't kick the prostitute out of bed if you want her to come back the next night. (Not that I would actually know that from experience). I expect this policy of engagement to continue,” he said.

Nevertheless, as Qatar seeks to expand its role as not only a major regional player, but also as an international one, the country’s fundamental values will continue to be scrutinized. In particular, Qatar’s designation as the host of the 2022 World Cup has drawn significant backlash.

“[The Qataris] are supporting a very violent non-state actor (Hamas),” Schanzer said. “A lot of people ignore Qatar’s ideological leanings. But at the end of the day, even though they are nominally allied with the United States, they are Islamist at their core.”

"While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them..." Daniel 7:8

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ISIS is Using an All-Women Brigade to Enforce Sharia Law in Syria

From Newsweek

"Jihad is not a man-only duty. Women must do their part as well," Abu Ahmad, a spokesman for ISIS in Syria told Syria Deeply.

In the city of Raqqa, where last week ISIS ambushed and killed more than 50 Syrian soldiers, the Sunni militant group has established an all-female unit tasked with policing other women under ISIS’s rigid interpretation of Sharia law.

"[T]he brigade raided the city's Hamida Taher Girls School and arrested 10 students, two teachers and a secretary on the grounds that some of them were wearing veils that were too thin. Others were accused of wearing hair clips under the veil, pinning them in a way that showed too much of their faces," activist Abu al-Hamza told Syria Deeply.

"The women who join the brigade are either women of Raqqa who wanted to take part in ISIS's activities there, or, often, the wives of mujahedeen who have come to fight from other parts of Syria or the region," Syria Deeply reported.

Women policing other women is a frequent topic of discussion in feminist scholarship, though never before has the phenomenon been taken to this extreme conclusion.

The official reason given for the brigade’s existence is to "raise awareness among women, and arrest and punish women who do not follow the religion correctly," Abu Ahmad said. However, the true purpose of the brigade is to detect anti-ISIS fighters attempting to infiltrate Raqqa dressed as women, Syrian media outlet Alalam reported.

The creation of all-female "morality police" units might be "indicative of a bigger, slow-moving shift toward allowing women 'more operative' roles in the jihadi movement," Thomas Hegghammer, the director of terrorism research at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, told The Atlantic. "There is a process of female emancipation taking place in the jihadi movement, albeit a very limited (and morbid) one," he said.

But the tactic of "putting women out front as a sign that their policies are 'broadly' accepted among the community" is nothing new, Isobel Coleman, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East, told Newsweek via email. "Remember the 'chicks with sticks' (so dubbed by the Pakistani press) - the all-women groups that terrorized citizens on the streets of Islamabad outside the Red Mosque in 2007?"

Still, being part of ISIS’s morality police might beat a lot of other options for Syrian women. According to Alalam, ISIS pays its female militants "a monthly salary worth 25 thousand SYP (Syrian pounds)." The country’s median wage since the crisis there began has dropped to 12 thousand SYP, Beirut-based news source Al-Akhbar said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Meriam, A Symbol of Feminism Come Full-Circle?

A beautifully written and thought provoking perspective on the accomplishments of Meriam Ibrahim.

LONDON, England (Catholic Online) - The great news of Meriam Ibrahim's arrival in Italy filled me with so much joy and elation. The images of this graceful and beautiful African woman, babe in hand, stepping out of the plane was a sight to behold especially after her unspeakable pain and suffering in the Sudanese prison.

So I thought I should, in a very simple letter, write down my reflections and thoughts of gratitude for this resilient daughter of Africa whose freedom is being celebrated by the entire world today.

On behalf of all African women, I thank you Meriam Ibrahim, for showing the world the indomitable courage that is at the core of authentic femininity. I say this because your pain and persecution were tied so firmly to your femininity. And so your triumph was a most powerful witness to life, to motherhood, to marriage, to love and to faith.

Meriam and Maya being blessed
by Pope Francis
You are indeed a true picture of faith and virtue, a true symbol of strength and resilience. You are, in my humble opinion, a real woman of substance, an African woman of substance and your story fills my heart with courage and audacity in my own vocation to defend our African culture of life,marriage, motherhood, faith and family, no matter how difficult, no matter how shameful and no matter how painful for me.

For under intense persecution, you refused to deny your Christian faith. Under the threat of the extremists, you stood as a witness and a martyr.

Under the pain of incarceration, you would not deny your husband or renounce your marriage.

Under the heavy shackles of prison you still had the strength and defiance to give life, to give birth.

Under the certainty of a death sentence you had the determination to nurse your precious little baby.

By your powerful example, the world has come to witness the resilience of a young African woman who in the worst conditions bore heroic witness to the virtues of faith, marriage, and motherhood.

Your unspeakable struggles in the last few months have been a most radiant ray of light that has pierced through the darkest clouds to contradict a modern world that is telling us that faith means nothing, that religious freedom is not all that important, that marriage is whatever we want it to be, that motherhood should be a choice we make under the most conducive situations, that our babies should only be born at the most convenient of times.

You, my African sister, have become a lightning rod to the radical feminists of our times who repudiate and denigrate every virtue that you epitomize .

Within your body, you have borne the marks and scars of a true Christian, a wife, a mother and a martyr, and in this way you have shown us what it means to be an empowered and liberated woman, and I'm glad to say it is certainly not what the western radicals and ideologues are telling us.

They try to tell us that for African women to be empowered, they need to be "sexually liberated", selfish, individualistic and fiercely autonomous, but you Meriam, by your own example, have taught us that the liberated African woman is the woman who is free to live and practice her faith, love her husband , and protect her children (born and unborn). A liberated woman is a woman of faith and family. This is the truth that must be spoken throughout Africa.

Today, the world watched you as you breathed the fresh air of freedom and as you made your first stop, not at the Whitehouse, but rather at the House of St Martha (Casa Santa Marta) which is also the house of the Holy Father Pope Francis. Instead of the presidential handshake that many others would have craved first, you chose the papal handshake. And instead of the political reception you chose the apostolic benediction for you and your family. You chose the Pope over the POTUS!

You are a woman of great wisdom and strength and indeed Africa raises, praises and celebrates you.

We rejoice with you and for you.

We rejoice that you are free at last.

And out of our rejoicing, I pray that more women (from our Africa and from every corner of the world) will reflect deeply on your experience so as to emulate you.
I pray for women of faith to rise up and bear courageous witness even to the point of martyrdom.

I pray for women who are pregnant to choose life for their babies at all cost.

I pray for women who are wives and mothers to stay true to their vows and vocations.

I pray that beyond our global rejoicing, we would be adorned with even a portion of the heroic virtue of Meriam Ibrahim's authentic feminism, purified and forged in the fiery crucible of religious persecution.

Obianuju Ekeocha is an African woman, living and working in the United Kingdom as a Specialist Biomedical Scientist. She is also the founder of Culture of Life Africa, an initiative dedicated to the promotion of a Culture of Life in Africa  through the dissemination of good information, sensitization and education. She has written several articles including the "Open Letter to Melinda Gates"  and "Africa in the redefined world (An Open Letter to President Obama)" Her passion and privilege is to continue to work in defense of the sanctity and dignity of life within Culture.

Gay Lobby Challenges Gay Conversion Therapy in Chinese Court

Gay rights activists in China are preparing for what they say could be a legal milestone in their fight to stop homosexuality being treated as an illness.

Later this month, a Chinese court will hear the first case of its kind brought against a clinic that offers so-called "gay conversion therapy".

A long campaign in Europe and America has been successful in shifting the medical consensus against such treatment, and now campaigners want Chinese doctors to follow suit.

In an office block in the eastern city of Nanjing, down a gloomy corridor, I find the Nanjing Urban Psychiatric Consultancy Centre.

It's a small office with a sparsely-furnished treatment room upstairs, from which - seemingly prompted by our arrival - a young male patient hurriedly leaves.
Dr Zhou claims to have successfully
"cured" 70% of his gay patients

China declassified homosexuality as a mental illness well over a decade ago, but clinics like this one are still easy to find.

Dr Zhou Zhengyou shows me some of the books he's written on the subject over the course of his career.

One of them is a guide for parents who suspect their son or daughter might be gay.

The overriding message appears to be that it is their own parenting methods that are somehow to "blame".

Dr Zhou now claims to cure up to 70% of his gay patients, although he says it is a long and difficult process.

And, his critics point out, at $120 (£70) a session - a lot of money on an average Chinese wage - long and difficult can mean lucrative.

Dr Zhou significantly weakens his own case by charging what appears to be exorbitant fees.

Dr Zhou tells me that today he uses counselling alone and does not treat his patients with so-called aversion-therapy offered elsewhere in China. But he is happy to describe how it works.

"One common method is electric shock. When the patient has a gay thought, we electrocute them or inject them with drugs that make them sick," he said.
Gay pride parades have taken
 place in Chinese cities,
including neighbouring Hong Kong

China's gay community has begun to fight back. They've organised a number of protests - small in number but nonetheless brave in China.

Video footage of one demonstration shows activists holding up a protest banner at a Beijing medical conference. "Being gay is not an illness," it reads.

The delegates do not seem convinced. "We cannot support homosexuality," a doctor said. "Although we try to understand it," his colleague adds.

In addition to such direct action, the campaigners have been given another avenue to pursue.

Xiang Xiaohan
In March, activist Xiang Xiaohan challenged a government decision not to register his gay rights organisation.

For the first time, China has allowed them to challenge gay conversion therapy in the courts.

"I had electric shock therapy only once," the man bringing the case, who calls himself Xiao Zhen, told the BBC. "Imagine those who've had it many times."

He put himself through the treatment in order to gather the evidence and he's now hoping that a successful court ruling in his favour will effectively ban the practice.

It's a battle that has been fought elsewhere, of course.

Government plans to introduce "gay conversion" therapy in Hong Kong drew outrage in 2011.

Aversion therapy has been the target of campaigners in Europe and America for decades and today, the notion of the gay conversion has not completely gone away.
Gay activists in Hong Kong protest against "gay conversion" therapy, June, 2011
But the modern medical consensus in the West is that there's no good evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Have there actually been any trials? Any studies?

Some people suggest that attitudes in China have been slower to evolve because of the one-child-policy as well as heavy Confucian pressure on young people to get married and produce a family heir.

Attitudes in China, though, are changing fast - that Shanghai now holds an annual gay pride event is proof of that. It includes gay film screenings, discussion groups and a fun-run.

Being China, participants are not allowed to march.

Now the court case, it's hoped, will be another step forward, sending a message that the enduring medical prejudice needs to stop.

So the question is, where does homosexuality come from? Is it natural? Is it normal? Is it reversible?

Friday, July 25, 2014

How The Italians Got Meriam Out of Sudan

Meriam Ibrahim had come to expect the unexpected.

First she was thrown into prison on charges of apostasy - renouncing your faith - which many saw as an attempt by distant family to get hold of her business interests. Then on May 15 she was sentenced to hang for the crime of abandoning Islam - even though she maintained she had never been a Muslim in the first place.
Meriam and Maya
She was released by Sudan’s supreme court on June 23, yet when she tried to leave the country three days later, she was detained once more - accused of forging her travel documents.

But the events of the past 24 hours must surely have shocked even her.

Ms Ibrahim, 27, was told late on Wednesday night that she was leaving Sudan - but had no idea where she was going.

“She had very little time,” said Elshareef Ali Mohammed, her lawyer, who has been trying to secure Ms Ibrahim’s freedom since she was arrested in December.

“She wanted to tell people she was leaving, but there was not time - and she didn’t even know where she was going.”

And by Thursday, having never left Sudan before, she found herself in Rome, greeted by Pope Francis in the Vatican.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she told Antonella Napoli, head of Italians for Darfur, according to La Repubblica. “I realised the greatest dream of my life - to meet the Pope.”

Mr Elshareef told The Telegraph that Ms Ibrahim would remain in Rome for several days to recuperate with her family - her husband Daniel Wani, 20-month-old son Martin, and daughter Maya, born in a Khartoum prison.

The family were expected to visit the Colosseum on Friday, according to Corriere Della Sera, before flying in the next few days to the United States - where Mr Wani has his home, in New Hampshire.

“The US government is providing consular assistance to the family but we have no other information at this time,” a spokesman for the American embassy told The Telegraph.

For Ms Ibrahim’s supporters back in Sudan, the moment she finally left the country was one of jubilation.

“Nobody from the government knew until the plane had taken off - except the minister of foreign affairs. And I expect he told the president,” said Mr Elshareef.

“Last week a group made a threat to attack the US embassy, where they had been living, so we couldn’t take any chances.”

Unbeknown to Ms Ibrahim and her family - who had been sheltering in the American embassy since they were detained while trying to leave the country in June - the past few months had seen an intense round of diplomatic wrangling.

The American authorities were trying to secure permission for the family to travel to the US - but were encountering resistance from President Omar al-Bashir’s authoritarian regime.

“The Sudanese government appears to be trying to get something out of the US in order to release her,” said Tina Ramirez at the time, executive director of Hardwired - an American organisation which has been campaigning for her release. Of course they were. It appears almost nothing happens in Africa without money changing hands.

South Sudan offered to mediate, because Mr Wani was born in the South, but their efforts were rebuffed by Khartoum. The Italians, as current holders of the rotating EU presidency, and with the moral authority of the Pope, then stepped in to try and secure her release.

“It was a political deal, which we started discussing a long time ago,” explained Mr Elshareef.

“The Sudanese government thought that they have a good relationship with Italy, so they would let her go.”

A plane was sent from Rome, with the deputy foreign minister, Lapo Pistelli, to bring the family to Italy.

“It’s a human rights issue,” a spokesman for the Italian foreign ministry told The Telegraph. “We genuinely wanted to help.”

Mr Pistelli said: “We didn’t tell her anything until the last minute because we didn’t want to run the risk of disappointing her if something had gone wrong.”

He said Italy had been in constant contact with the Sudanese over the case, through their ambassador in Khartoum, Armando Barucco, who said Italy’s efforts were “appreciated by the Americans”.

The Sudanese called the Italians to say there was a “diplomatic window” and they were prepared to hand over her passport, so that she could travel.

“I informed the prime minister and foreign minister and it was decided that we should leave for Khartoum immediately,” said Mr Pistelli.

“We neither paid [the Sudanese] nor promised them anything. We know how to engage in politics without opening up the wallet.” Maybe you could share that with Africa.

Mr Pistelli posted a photograph of the family on board the plane on his Facebook page - with the caption: “Mission accomplished”.

Mr Elshareef said: “They were so very happy when they knew they would finally be leaving Sudan. It has been incredibly difficult for them all.

“We didn’t dare believe it was actually going to happen until the plane took off. Then we were all celebrating.”

The charges against Ms Ibrahim have not been dropped however, he said.

The Supreme Court is still weighing an appeal against her acquittal for apostasy, after her brother (from Hell) challenged the quashing of the case.

And the charges of forging her documents also stood, pending full investigation.

The couple’s lawyers were hopeful that all charges would be abandoned, however, as the family was in any case unlikely to risk returning to Sudan.

“I’ve always had my faith - and my love for my husband, a gift from God,” said Ms Ibrahim, according to La Repubblica. “When I was asked to renounce my Christian faith, I knew what I was risking [in refusing to do so]. But I didn’t want to renounce it. God bless you!

“With my family, I will start a new life. We are going to move to New Hampshire, where my brother-in-law Gabriel lives. He will help us. We’ll all be together, like a proper family.

“Thank you Italy. Thanks to God, we are all well.” Amen! And thank you to those who prayed for Meriam and her family through this ordeal.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Meriam is Free and in Italy

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family today after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.

Mrs Ibrahim's father is Muslim so according to Sudan's version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.

Welcoming her at the airport, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: "Today is a day of celebration."

Mrs Ibrahim met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican soon after her arrival.
Meriam, Maya and Pope Francis
"The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.

The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended to show "closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith," he added.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says there was no prior indication of Italy's involvement in the case. That's simply not true, I have mentioned it twice myself so there must have been. In fact, this from the Italian government: 

Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan for apostasy but subsequently pardoned, arrived in Rome on Thursday, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

Ibrahim “will remain in Italy for a short time and then will travel on to the United States,” the ministry said. …

[Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Lapo] Pistelli said Italy had become involved in the case because, as a Catholic country, it was very moved by Ibrahim’s story and wanted to help.

Italy has good relations with Khartoum and offered to help the U.S. Embassy there to speed up the process of getting U.S. passports for Ibrahim and her family to leave the country, the minister said.

Pistelli said he had traveled to Sudan two weeks ago to start the process but it was not finalized until Wednesday night.

He posted an image to his Facebook page of himself with Ibrahim and the two infants, apparently taken on board the plane shortly before their arrival in Rome. “Mission accomplished,” he wrote.

Lapo Pistelli, Italy's vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.

"Mission accomplished," he wrote.

A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.

Mrs Ibrahim's lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.

"She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It's the country she was born and grew up in," he said.
Meriam's husband Daniel Wani in Rome airport
"But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave. Just two days ago a group called Hamza made a statement that they would kill her and everyone who helps her," he added. Muslims are such lovely people. Good thing it's a religion of peace.

Mrs Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality.

Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy - renouncing one's faith.

Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June.

She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake.

These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum.

Last week, her father's family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.

Thank God she is finally out of the asylum called Sudan. Lord keep her and her family safe from the lunatics who might try to kill her.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If You are Gay and in a Gulf State, Stay in the Closet and be Quiet!

Manama: A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced an homosexual man to three years in prison and 450 lashes for using his Twitter account to promote homosexual contacts.

The man, 24, was arrested after he posted several tweets calling for homosexual relations and expressing his readiness to meet gay men, local daily Al Watan reported on Tuesday.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police, was alerted about the tweets and was able to apprehend the young man after it set him up using an undercover agent.
Can't imagine why they would not want these guys in the gulf states?
His mobile phone was searched and several “immoral” pictures were discovered, prompting the Commission to refer his case to the public prosecution.

During the trial, the prosecutor requested a harsh punishment and the confiscation of the mobile phone on charges of promoting debauchery.

The suspect reportedly admitted to using his account on the microblog to contact and communicate with homosexuals.

The court decided that the 450 lashes would be given over 15 sessions. How merciful!

Homosexuality is banned in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states that also comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Little Aubrey Starr's Condition Worsens as Doctors Undecided as to What to Do

Hope PHor Aubrie Starr
17 July
Have to leave here in the morning at 6:30am to take Aubrie to the specialty children's hospital to see her cardiologist and PH team. She had some episodes of passing out over the weekend, a couple nights of low stats and has been exhausted more than normal. Hopefully we can finally find out if anything has changed with her Pulmonary Hypertension. I will keep everyone posted!!

Hope PHor Aubrie Starr
18 July
Aubries drs feel that with her condition being so difficult to truly know what is going on all the time it is in our best interest to get a second opinion from a lung transplant specialty team. They will begin sharing notes and information with a team in Chapel Hill. It may be that she is fine where she is right now or it could mean she needs a central IV line or a sub q line. It may be that a transplant is best. Nothing has been decided they are just seeking a more experienced decision. It does appear her condition may progressing. As I am made aware of thing with her care I will let all of know as well. Thank you all for being such wonderful prayer warriors for our family! God's got this, he has a plan laid out etched in stone. The Lord is our strength!

Hope PHor Aubrie Starr
3 hours ago
Aubrie has been so tired today and she hasn't done much except ride in her car that I push and get carried around every where.  She was so exhausted she went to sleep for her nap around 1:00pm and didn't get up until 4:30pm. She was already back to sleep at 9:00pm. Pray for her body to get the rest it needs. With God all things are possible!

The official page for Aubrie Starr a patient diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and branch pulmonary artery hypoplasia. Please pray for Aubrie Starr!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Effects of Marijuana Sales in Colorado Serious Cause for Concern

(CNN) -- This week, Washington state opened recreational marijuana stores for the first time. And these stores don't just carry your father's kind of weed. In addition to highly potent cigarettes -- which are much stronger than those some people might remember from Woodstock -- stores will also soon sell super-strength, pot-infused cookies, candies, sodas, vapor and wax concentrates.

Time will tell what the effects will be, but the state is not the first place to implement such a policy. Colorado started to sell marijuana six months ago. When President Barack Obama stopped by a Denver bar on Tuesday night, it comes as no surprise that someone offered him weed.

Colorado's experience with pot legalization can hardly be called a success. In fact, it should be considered a warning for the residents of Washington.

Special-interest "Big Tobacco"-like groups and businesses have ensured that marijuana is widely promoted, advertised and commercialized in Colorado. As a result, calls to poison centers have skyrocketed, incidents involving kids going to school with marijuana candy and vaporizers seem more common, and explosions involving butane hash oil extraction have risen. Employers are reporting more workplace incidents involving marijuana use, and deaths have been attributed to ingesting marijuana cookies and food items.

So much for the old notion that "pot doesn't kill."

Marijuana companies, like their predecessors in the tobacco industry, are determined to keep lining their pockets.
Indeed, legalization has come down to one thing: money. And it's not money for the government -- Colorado has only raised a third of the amount of tax revenue they have projected -- it's money for this new industry and its shareholders.

Open Colorado newspapers and magazines on any given day and you will find pages of marijuana advertisements, coupons and cartoons promoting greater and greater highs. The marijuana industry is making attractive a wide selection of marijuana-related products such as candies, sodas, ice cream and cartoon-themed paraphernalia and vaporizers, which are undoubtedly appealing to children and teens.

As Al Bronstein, medical director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center recently said, "We're seeing hallucinations, they become sick to their stomachs, they throw up, they become dizzy and very anxious." Bronstein reported that in 2013, there were 126 calls concerning adverse reactions to marijuana. From January to April this year, the center receive 65 calls.

And, since Colorado expanded marijuana stores for medical users, peer-reviewed research has found a major upsurge in stoned driving-related deaths (that is not surprising since marijuana intoxication doubles the risk of a car crash).

It is little wonder that every major public health association, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Society of Addiction Medicine oppose the legalization of marijuana.

The scientific verdict is that marijuana can be addictive and dangerous.
Like a deli that stinks
Despite denials by special interest groups and marijuana businesses, the drug's addictiveness is not debatable: 1 in 6 kids who ever try marijuana will become addicted to the drug, according to the National Institutes of Health. Many baby boomers have a hard time understanding this simply because today's marijuana can be so much stronger than the marijuana of the past.

In fact, more than 450,000 incidents of emergency room admissions related to marijuana occur every year, and heavy marijuana use in adolescence is connected to an 8-point reduction of IQ later in life, irrespective of alcohol use.

As if our national mental illness crisis needed more fuel, marijuana users also have a six times higher risk of schizophrenia and are significantly more likely to development other psychotic illnesses. It is no wonder that health groups such as the National Alliance of Mental Illness are increasingly concerned about marijuana use and legalization.

That does not mean we need to arrest our way out of a marijuana problem.

We should reform criminal justice practices and emphasize prevention, early intervention and treatment when necessary. But we do not need to legalize -- and thus commercialize and advertise -- marijuana to implement these reforms.

The only people better off under legalization are the big companies that stand to profit from sales of marijuana. And we can be sure they will get even richer while public health and safety suffers.

The New York Times
Law enforcement officers in Colorado and neighboring states, emergency room doctors and legalization opponents increasingly are highlighting a series of recent problems as cautionary lessons for other states flirting with loosening marijuana laws.

There is the Denver man who, hours after buying a package of marijuana-infused Karma Kandy from one of Colorado’s new recreational marijuana shops, began raving about the end of the world and then pulled a handgun from the family safe and killed his wife, the authorities say. Some hospital officials say they are treating growing numbers of children and adults sickened by potent doses of edible marijuana. Sheriffs in neighboring states complain about stoned drivers streaming out of Colorado and through their towns.

“I think, by any measure, the experience of Colorado has not been a good one unless you’re in the marijuana business,” said Kevin A. Sabet, executive director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization. “We’ve seen lives damaged. We’ve seen deaths directly attributed to marijuana legalization. We’ve seen marijuana slipping through Colorado’s borders. We’ve seen marijuana getting into the hands of kids.”

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Inside Isis - An Interview with a Very Frightened Deserter

An "Islamic caliphate" has been declared in the Middle East and the group behind it, Isis, has now rebranded itself simply "the Islamic State". BBCs Panorama has spoken to a defector about life inside the feared jihadist group.

Isis is not an organisation that is easy to leave. We met a man who had - and he was terrified of the consequences. "The brutality of Isis terrifies everyone," he said. "My family, my cousins, my siblings are all still there. I fear for them. If they can't reach me, they will reach my family."

He was nervous, agreeing to record an interview only after several hours of discussion, over customary tiny glasses of scalding hot, sweet tea. He would talk to us only if we would not reveal his identity. He wrapped himself in a keffiyeh for our camera and we promised not to use his name.

He summed up the jihadists' tactics like this: "If you're against me, then you'll be killed. If you're with me, you work with me. You submit to my will and obey me, under my power in all matters."
Isis Soldiers
There are few accounts of how Isis works. That is no surprise when Isis says it will detain as spies any foreign journalists who enter its territory. So we travelled to Turkey's border with Syria to meet the defector.

The border is a hinterland of safe houses and supply lines for the rebels in the Syrian uprising. Turkey has made clear that Isis is no longer welcome here, so it is possible to meet people who have sought refuge from the Islamic State.

The defector had initially joined an Islamist brigade of the Free Syrian Army to fight the Assad regime. He joined Isis when his whole tribe pledged allegiance to the group - and because he believed in creating an Islamic state.

His first orders, as an Isis fighter, were to attend a course on Sharia, or Islamic law. "Not the principles of Islam, the principles of the Islamic State. So they teach you the Islam they want," he said.

"It appeals to the heart and not to the mind, so that your heart becomes impassioned with their words. This is the first stage. The second stage is military exercises, military training."

He explained that Isis had learned the lessons from Iraq in the early days on the anti-American insurgency. Then, it alienated the Sunni population. In Syria, the defector said, Isis tried to do things differently as it entered each new town.

"In the beginning Isis used goodness with the population in order to attract the people and they provided them with what they needed in order to attract them quickly, because they suffered so much under Bashar and his regime," he said.

This is the same tactic used by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They provided goods and services that the Mubarak government couldn't or wouldn't support. The people began to identify with them, thinking they were good. But when they won the election, their true colours began to emerge in their support of terrorism.

In European countries, and in the Americas, Islam is mostly a religion of peace. But unfortunately, it is not the peaceful Muslims who rise to prominence and power. Once Islam becomes a majority in some European states, the peaceful Muslims will come under the power of mad men like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and soon Sharia Law will be implemented on everyone as it is in the Islamic State. Within 20 or 30 years, the Americas will follow thanks to the large number of immigrants and the very high reproduction rates of Muslims. Our daughters and granddaughters will be wearing hijabs.

"Once Isis succeeded in attracting people they changed dramatically, from being good to being cruel and harsh. You're either with me or against me! There is nothing in between."

In all the towns and villages it controls, Isis has implemented its very conservative version of Sharia. Rules on appearance are strictly enforced: a beard for men, the full veil for women, this is required for the whole population.

"Anything that contradicts their beliefs is forbidden. Anyone who follows what they reject is an apostate and must be killed," the defector said.

Our producer met one woman who had fled with her husband and children to Turkey from Raqqa in Syria. She said an Isis fighter policing the streets had threatened her after she had accidentally shown one centimetre of her trousers.

"I was wearing it [the niqab] but I just forgot to lift it up, that's while I was getting out of the car. I don't know how he saw me, I really don't know. And he was Egyptian, unfortunately. He is not a Syrian worrying about a woman from his nation."

The defector said it was a deliberate Isis strategy to use outsiders to police the towns it took over.

"The Islamic State have brought in people from other countries, different nationalities who are quite young in age so that they can brainwash or indoctrinate them with their Isis ideology," he said.

"And so they control the areas, not through the local people but with their own forces and their own men whom they prepare for this task."

The jihadists of Isis wish to go back to what they see as a more pure form of Islam from the time of the Prophet and his companions. They believe in a literal interpretation of the Koran.

The lslamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has now proclaimed himself "Caliph", a descendant of Muhammad and of his tribe. He has demanded that all Muslims, everywhere, swear loyalty to him -a ruling condemned by other religious scholars around the region.

But Baghdadi is also spoken of as a cunning tactician. Some reports from Mosul, for instance, speak of confidence-building measures. Security barriers have been torn down to open roads, electricity lines restored, municipal salaries paid… if this does not work, Isis can rely on the whip and the sword, as it has done many times in the past.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Sculpting of Iraq Continues as Kurds Seize Two Oil Fields in North

Iraqi Kurds have taken over two oil fields amid a growing dispute with the government in Baghdad, Iraqi and Kurdish sources say.

Kurdish peshmerga forces seized control of production facilities at the Bai Hassan and Kirkuk oil fields in the north of the country on Friday.

Kurdish MPs have also withdrawn from Iraq's central government.

They did so after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki accused the Kurds of harbouring extremists.

Kurdish forces have moved into areas of north-western Iraq abandoned by the Iraqi army during the advance of Islamist insurgents led by the Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) group over the past month.

The Kurds have since declared plans to hold a referendum on independence in the areas seized, escalating tensions with Iraq's central authorities.

In a statement on Friday, the Iraqi oil ministry condemned the seizure of oil refineries, adding that they expected Kurdish fighters to "support security forces in confronting terrorist groups rather than using the conditions to raid and occupy oil fields".

Reuters news agency said a senior source within the Kurdistan Regional Government had confirmed the takeover.

The unnamed source said they had been "forced to act to protect Iraq's infrastructure after learning of attempts by Iraq oil ministry officials to sabotage it".

The two oil fields are said to have a combined daily output capacity of some 400,000 barrels per day, AFP quotes a ministry spokesman as saying.
Gas shortages are a frequent occurrence in Iraq
The Kurdish minority in Iraq managed to establish an autonomous region in the north in 2005 after decades of political and military efforts to seek self-rule.

Kurdish officials, including Kurdistan Region leader Massoud Barzani, say they view independence of areas under Kurdish control as their right.

Tensions came to a head when Prime Minister Maliki said on Wednesday that the Kurdish provincial capital Irbil was a haven for Isis fighters.

Soon after, a spokesman for Massoud Barzani said Mr Maliki "had become hysterical" and urged him to step down.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, who is himself a Kurdish politician, told Reuters news agency on Friday that the Kurdish political bloc had suspended all day-to-day government business after Mr Maliki's remarks.

He said the country risked division if an inclusive government was not formed soon, adding: "The country is now divided literally into three states - Kurdish, a black state [Isis] and Baghdad." I predicted this a month ago.

This row with the Kurds is the last thing Iraq needs because it is already facing a stunningly successful Islamist insurgency, says the BBC's Mark Doyle in Baghdad.

It is a three-way dispute between the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shia and it could lead to a three-way split, he continues.

Separately on Friday, the Iraqi government recalled Iraqi Kurd diplomats based at its UK embassy who were accused of taking part in a demonstration calling for the full secession of Iraqi Kurdistan.

But the diplomats' case symbolises a much more serious dispute, with Iraq's ethnic and religious unity and the very borders of the modern state under threat, our correspondent adds.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Christians Win Confrontation when Bigoted City Council has Epiphany

While Christianity and gay rights collide in Northern Ireland, one matter in Canada has been resolved, as expected.

Nanaimo, British Columbia city council, in May, had sneakily stopped a leadership simulcast with some Christian content from occurring in their convention centre. It was just days before the event was to occur and no-one was informed that the issue would be discussed at the council meeting.

During the meeting Christians were referred to a 'being like criminals', divisive, and undesirable in Nanaimo. Well, as we reported, it hit the fan with a Sun News hour-long program stirring up a frenzy.
Mayor John

Since then, so many letters from offended Christians reached the Mayor and city council that they, apparently, realized for the first time that there were a lot more Christians in Nanaimo than LGBTs. 

Justin Trudeau
Liberal Leader
With an election looming in a few months, the mayor and much of the council had a sudden epiphany. The Toronto Sun called it Nanaimo Council's 'come to Jesus moment'. They backed-off, they refuted, they apologized, and they revoked the anti-Christian bill they had passed in May.

It was a brief fight that turned out for the good, but it will certainly not be the last attempt to reduce the rights of Christians to a level lower than the rights of gays and lesbians. With the possibility of a left-leaning government looming on the horizon in Canada, anything could happen.
Pierre Trudeau

It was Pierre Trudeau in the 1960s who closed the bedroom doors and opened the closets for gays and lesbians. He turned Canada from a 'moral' society to a 'just' society. There-in lies the foundation of the confrontation that has recently begun; one that Christians will not win.

What is really scary now, is that the above-mentioned left-leaning government, should it arise, will be led by the son of Pierre Trudeau, who, if possible, is more bold and brash than his father. God only knows what he is likely to do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Missiles Raining Down on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Elsewhere in Israel

Israel Under Attack – Sirens Screaming in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya

Netanyahu to widen Gaza operation as Cabinet approves the call-up of 40,000 troops.

Rockets have been shot down over Tel Aviv and terrorists have been killed in a firefight.
Rockets fired into Jerusalem from Gaza
All bomb shelters ordered opened in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as Tzeva Adom screamed throughout the Jewish State.

The warning sirens are screaming and the rockets are threatening a wide swath of the tiny land of Israel.

So far on Tuesday, July 8, sirens alerted residents of Beer Sheva, Gush Etzion, Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Jerusalem to race to the closest bomb shelters.

The municipality of Jerusalem issued a notice that all bomb shelters in the city must be opened, and directed residents to a site on the location of the closest shelters. Private homes with safe rooms large enough to take in others were asked to do that to ensure everyone has a safe place to wait for the emergency to end.

A rocket struck a home in Jerusalem, but no one was injured.
Israeli attacks on Gaza
In Tel Aviv, the municipal government issued a state of emergency and ordered all bomb shelters be opened.

Three explosions are heard in Jerusalem after Code Red sirens blare in the capital. Sirens are also heard in Binyamina and Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael in northern Israel, Rishon Lezion in central Israel and Ashdod in southern Israel.

After a rocket was shot down over Tel Aviv earlier today, a second siren is heard in the city, followed by two explosions and a third siren.

Less than three hours after a rocket was shot down over Tel Aviv, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts a second rocket over the vibrant central city.

Meanwhile, Code Red alerts are heard throughout central Israel, including in Tel Aviv.

The question is where did Gaza get rockets capable of reaching so far into Israel? And the fact that they are using them now probably means an all-out offensive by Hamas most of whom are Sunni Muslims like Isis. It could be just a testing of Israel's Iron Dome but, I suspect that it is much more than that. This does not auger well for Gaza or Israel. Pardon the pun but this is a very explosive situation the end of which is pretty unpredictable and could be catastrophic in Biblical proportions.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” Psalm 122:6

A Delightful Visit with Meriam Ibrahim and Family

The Christian mother put on death row for refusing to become a Muslim has revealed that her baby girl has not been damaged after she gave birth whilst shackled to the floor.

Meriam Ibrahim said that two-month-old Maya will undergo an ultrasound in the coming weeks to confirm that she will be able to walk.

It had been feared that, like her father Daniel Wani, a US citizen who has muscular dystrophy, she could be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Meriam and Maya

Waiting: Meriam Ibrahim, her husband Daniel Wani and baby Maya are pictured inside the US embassy in Khartoum where Meriam is waiting to hear when she can leave Sudan

Meriam, 27, a doctor, spoke to Italian journalist and activist Antonella Napoli who visited her and her family in the library of the US embassy in the capital Khartoum which has become their makeshift home while they wait to leave Sudan.

Four camp beds have been put down on the floor and the family are being attended to by embassy staff in the cramped building.

Writing exclusively for MailOnline, Miss Napoli said that Meriam and Daniel wanted to thank the public for all their support which played a huge part in getting her out of jail.

That would include your prayers and mine. Thank You, Lord. Please keep praying for this family until they are safely in America.

Miss Napoli is one of the few journalists to speak to Meriam in person since she was freed on June 30 after spending eight months behind bars in a women's prison in Khartoum.

Meriam had been sentenced to death and 100 lashes for apostasy and adultery for marrying Daniel as they are both Christian and a court wanted her to convert to Islam.

Daniel Wani and Maya
During her time in jail Meriam gave birth to Maya - and her son Martin, 21 months, was with her during the entire ordeal.

Miss Napoli said that on her visit she found Meriam in ‘good physical and mental condition, although she’s naturally been tested by this experience’.

She describes Meriam as a ‘shy girl, slight in build with perfect skin, like porcelain’ who does not speak English so Daniel, a biochemist, translates.

Miss Napoli writes: ‘When I started to talk to her she was keeping her eyes down.

‘It was difficult for her to meet my gaze. Her hands were folded in her lap as if to protect herself. Her experience in the prison was shocking. 

‘She knows that her and her family will be safe only when they will be very far from away from Sudan.’

Miss Napoli describes the room where the family are staying as ‘full of shelves and books’ with a large plasma screen TV to keep them entertained.
Reporter Antonella Napoli
They are being looked after by an embassy worker called Patricia.

Secrets: The family were seized by the National Intelligence Security Services, dubbed the 'Agents of Fear' by Amnesty International, which accused them of a catalog of abuses

Miss Napoli writes: ‘Patricia tells me that Meriam is in the bathroom with Martin. Daniel is sitting in the wheelchair. For years he has been suffering from muscular dystrophy.

'I hold his hand. His eyes tell me much more than his words. His eyes are full of gratitude. I hear a cry. On the bed, behind my back, there is Maya.

'I ask Daniel if I can take his daughter in my arms. She is small, wearing a yellow and blue dress with the words ' I love ocean'. 

'She has a lot of black hair, and her eyes are bright and alive. She's so beautiful. I lose myself in her eyes. In that moment Meriam comes in. 

'Martin is in her arms, naked. He has just had a bath. He is smaller than I imagined. She looks lovely in her flowered dress and her long braided hair.'

On her visit Miss Napoli brought gifts for the children - a teddy bear for Martin and a little white dress with blue ribbons for Maya and a silk scarf for her.

Miss Napoli writes: ‘She likes it, she is happy and excited like a child.

'I ask if she is more quiet now that the doctor who visited Maya in the embassy said that she is fine and that in a few weeks Maya will have an ultrasound exam which will be able to confirm that Maya will not have problems in walking in the future. 

'Meriam feared that giving birth in chains, without being able to open her legs, could have caused damage to the child. She is a doctor, remember.

US 'working with Sudan' to get death-row mom out of country
Daniel, Meriam and Maya
'All the family is well, now. Daniel repeats it many times. Looking at his wife and children with a loving gaze. And that love, I said to them, has allowed them to overcome this absurd story. 

'Their love and the love of hundreds of thousands of people that have rallied for her freedom across the world.

'Daniel will not let me leave before thanking again for the commitment of people and media that pressed for her released.'

Meriam’s journey has been a hellish roller coaster.

The day after her sentence was overturned she and her family tried to fly to South Sudan en route to the US but was accused of using false papers to make the trip.

What happens next is unclear; Meriam could face an entirely new trial for the forgery allegations or the government may dismiss the case.
Khartoum Airport
Meriam, her husband and children were detained by 40 agents from the National Intelligence Security Services, dubbed the 'Agents of Fear' by Amnesty International, which accused them of a catalog of abuses.

Their lawyer told MailOnline at the time he didn't  know what charges they were being held on.

Now adding to her woes is her half brother (from Hell) Al Samani Al Hadi has filed a new case against her even though he has publicly stated he wants to execute her.

Meriam’s case has attracted international attention; it has been highlighted by human rights campaigners and people such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and human rights campaigner Mia Farrow.

The governments of the UK, Canada and the Netherlands all called for her to be freed and US Secretary of State said he was concerned about her treatment.

Miss Napoli revealed behind the scenes the Italian government has been working hard to get Meriam out of the Sudan having been deeply moved by her plight. Italians are so emotional - God bless them.

She writes: 'Last week Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli was in Khartoum and during his visit – the highest-level visit by a member of the Italian Government and European Union to Sudan for nearly 3 yearshe raised the question of Meriam’s release in all of his meetings with representatives of the Sudanese institutions.

'He discussed her case with the First Vice President, Bakri Hassan Saleh, Foreign Minister Ali Karti, and the assistant to the President, Ibrahim Ghandour.

'They all said they were willing to cooperate to reach a positive and speedy solution to the case.'

Miss Napoli said that according to diplomatic sources, and in line with the Italian government’s actions over the last two months, Mr Pistelli’s visit should play a decisive part in reaching a positive outcome for Meriam.

Miss Napoli added that she believes that Meriam will be on her way to the US ‘very soon’, although the Sudanese government is unpredictable (and so is her half-brother from Hell) and could delay her departure again.

Christianity and Gay Rights Collide Again - This Time in Northern Ireland

A Christian-run bakery in Northern Ireland that refused a customer's request to make a cake with a slogan supporting gay marriage could face a discrimination case in court.

Ashers Baking Company declined an order from a gay rights activist, asking for cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets, Bert and Ernie.

The customer also wanted the cake to feature the logo of a Belfast-based campaign group called "Queerspace". They also wanted the cake to say 'Gay Marriage' which is not yet lawful in Northern Ireland.
What the cake was to look like

The County Antrim firm could face legal action from the Equality Commission.

The watchdog confirmed it is assisting the customer whose order was refused and has written to the baking company on his behalf.

The cake was ordered for a civic event in Bangor Castle Town Hall, County Down, to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The bakery, which was founded in Newtownabbey in 1992, is run by the McArthur family.

The directors, who are Christians, operate six shops in Northern Ireland and employ 62 people.

The firm's 24-year-old general manager, Daniel McArthur, said marriage in Northern Ireland "still is defined as being a union between one man and one woman" and said his company was taking "a stand".

The customer placed the order in Ashers' Belfast branch a number of weeks ago, and it was then passed to their head office.

In an online statement, Mr McArthur said: "The directors and myself looked at it and considered it and thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs.

"It certainly was at odds with what the Bible teaches, and on the following Monday we rang the customer to let him know that we couldn't take his order."

Mr McArthur added that his firm offered the customer a full refund, which was collected shortly after the order was refused.

"We thought that was the end of it, but approximately six weeks later we received a letter from the Equality Commission. The Equality Commission's letter said that we had discriminated against the customer on the grounds of his sexual orientation. Of course, this is a twisting of the facts; the bakery did not refuse to do the cake because the man who ordered it was gay, but because of what he wanted on the cake. 

A Christian cannot separate what he does from God. God, the Holy Spirit indwells a Christian at all times. For a Christian to assist in any way in the celebration of what is very clearly offensive to God, requires the Christian to offend God. For the government to order him to offend God is unthinkable.

"It asked us to propose how we would recompense the customer for this discrimination. It also said it would pursue legal proceedings if we didn't respond within a seven-day time period," Mr McArthur said.

The general manager said he was "very surprised" by the watchdog's letter and his firm asked the Christian Institute for advice on how to deal with the case.

The institute is supporting the bakery's stance and is now providing legal assistance.

Mr McArthur said: "I feel if we don't take a stand on this here case, then how can we stand up against it, further down the line?"

The general manager added that it was not the first time his company had refused customers' cake orders.

"In the past, we've declined several orders which have contained pornographic images and offensive, foul language." Again, the order was declined because of what the customers wanted on the cakes not because the customer was a foul-mouthed pervert.

Mr McArthur added: "I would like the outcome of this to be that, any Christians running a business could be allowed to follow their Christian beliefs and principles in the day-to-day running of their business and that they are allowed to make decisions based on that."

However, Alliance councillor Andrew Muir - who hosted the civic event for which the cake was ordered - said he fully supported the action taken against the bakery.

"Businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve," Mr Muir said.

"There would not be any debate if the cake had depicted an anti-racism or anti-ageism slogan, nor should it require intervention from the Equality Commission for this cake for Anti-Homophobia Day.

"It is ridiculous for this bakery to suggest that they would have to endorse the campaign."

The councillor, who hosted the event during his term as mayor of North Down, said another bakery in Bangor stepped in and accepted the cake order.

But Mr Muir added: "For Northern Ireland to prosper and overcome our divisions we need a new society where businesses are willing to cater for all, regardless of religious views, political opinion, disability, race, age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender and other backgrounds." That's a laudable idea in an ideal world, but will never happen in a sin-filled, anti-Christian world.

Gavin Boyd, a gay rights campaigner with the Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland, also supported the customer's discrimination complaint.

Rainbow Project's Gavin Boyd said the issue was not about same sex marriage but the provision of goods, facilities and services.

"It is because of sexual orientation that the company decided not to print this," Mr Boyd told BBC Radio Ulster. I guess I missed something here, print what? Do they make cakes with 3-D printers now?

"The law is really clear. You cannot pick and choose which sides of the law apply to you. God is also very clear, "Choose you this day whom you will serve".

"If you are a company that is trading out there in the market place and someone comes to you, you can't pick and choose whether or not to fulfil that order based on their sexual orientation," Mr Boyd added.

But the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said the Equality Commission had overstepped the mark and the complaint highlighted the need for a "conscience clause" to protect Christians and others who have deeply held beliefs.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said: "The case re-opens the debate about how exactly religious belief is respected within the United Kingdom and the need for someone's conscience to be protected whilst ensuring that discrimination does not occur."

In a statement, the watchdog said: "The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland provides advice and can provide assistance to people who complain to us that they have suffered unlawful discrimination.

"In this case the commission has granted assistance to the complainant, and has written to the company concerned on his behalf.

"The commission will consider any response before taking further action."

Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK which has not passed a law to introduce same-sex marriage.