The recent 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Napa Valley, just north of the San Francisco Bay area, has reminded Californians that we live in a precarious state, where certain sections are prone to temblors and tremors, as well as devastating droughts.
The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 still holds the record in our state for the most lives lost in one disaster, but close behind is the aftermath of the collapse of the St. Francis Dam in 1928. This Southern California area, night-time calamity, nearly ninety years ago, swept some 600 slumbering people to their deaths, when a 700-foot-wide earthen dam collapsed—pouring 38,000 acre feet of water into the Santa Clarita river bed, flooding all the way to the sea, near Ventura.
Engineering investigations sited several causes for this calamity, but the chief among them was a “defective foundation.” This engineering problem points to a reality with broader implication for our society and personal lives: If our moral foundation is cracked, it will inevitably lead to a catastrophe.
Over the past months, Israel has again been drawn into a “rocket war” in the Gaza Strip, with the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas launching thousands of missiles at Israel’s civilians—often from highly populated areas.
This terrorist group has introduced a new element of warfare by digging and fortifying “complex and advanced” tunnels, from under houses and mosques in Gaza and reaching beyond the boarders into southern Israel. They intended to kill or kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers, as well as to attack Israel’s southern Jewish communities.
When Israel responded to this new terrorist model, they captured plans for a major terrorist attack intended for September 24th —Israel’s biblical Feast of Trumpets, known as Rosh Hashanah. Apparently, hundreds of Hamas operatives were planning to use these concrete-lined tunnels and carry out deadly attacks and kidnappings on that Jewish Holy Day!
During the Senate’s brief pre-election legislative session in mid-September, Harry Reid (D-NV) intends to call for a vote on an amendment to the United States Constitution. This partisan-motivated vote would essentially overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions on campaign finance and political speech. Alarmingly, it could also limit critical freedoms in our Bill of Rights.
Although amendments to the U.S. Constitution require 2/3 support in both the House and the Senate, and then ratification by 3/4 of the States, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), warns that this proposal could have serious consequences for all the “free speech” freedoms of the First Amendment. It could be, he said, “detrimental to liberty and equality, preparing the way for the government to prefer one voice over another – or to suppress one voice under another.”
This ill-conceived amendment includes a section reiterating the freedom of the press, but is silent on the other First Amendment liberties – namely, religion, speech, assembly, and petitioning the government. Dr. Johnson noted, “In essence, this would establish the press as a super-class of speaker (without defining what the press is), but could well leave expression by the rest of Americans at the mercy of the federal government.”
President Obama has finally responded to the violence and persecution against Christians and other religious minorities by the barbaric militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The President has ordered airlifts of humanitarian aid to over 40,000 Iraqi religious refugees, said to be trapped in the mountains of Iraq and Kurdistan, and potential airstrikes to protect them and U.S. personnel still in Iraq. Another 100,000 displaced Christians are said to be fleeing elsewhere on foot.
Religious leaders in the U.S. have signed a “Pledge of Solidarity & Call to Action” on behalf of Christians and other religious minorities in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. The Pledge, spurred by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), highlights their concerns: “Now facing an existential threat to their presence in the lands where Christianity has its roots, the Churches in the Middle East fear they have been largely ignored by their coreligionists in the West… American religious leaders need to pray and speak with greater urgency about this human rights crisis.”
Christians need to pray for persecuted believers, here and around the world. We must also urge the Obama Administration to actively advocate to the international community the principles of religious freedom as a human right, as declared in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. State Department has released its required, annual report on international religious freedom for last year. The comprehensive document summarily states:
“In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map.”
The report goes on to call this mass displacement a “pernicious norm” and names Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. All of these violators of the human right of religious freedom are controlled by either Muslims or Communists.