Originally posted on Rivers of Hope:
The leader, named Hamadi, entered one of the classrooms, took a piece of chalk and scrawled his message on the blackboard.
Then his mobile phone rang, and he stepped away to answer. Salia urged his students to pose some questions of their own when he returned: Where had he come from and what did he want with a bunch of young people?
Hamadi told the students that people didn’t ask questions like that where he was from. Islam knows no nationality, he replied and then left — and did not return before the French-led military operation ousted him and his fighters from power last month.
“I told my students to be careful: that these men may be well-versed in the Quran but their Islamic point of view is not the same as ours,” the teacher recalled.
Nearly a month after the al-Qaida-linked militants were driven out of Gao and into the surrounding villages, students are now returning to the city’s Quranic schools.
Many classrooms, though, are still half full, as tens of thousands of people fled the fighting and strict Islamic rule the extremists.
However, other pupils left Gao not with their families but with the Islamic fighters when they retreated, say human rights activists and local officials.
The experience of the Gao schools illustrates how the extremists used madrassas in northern Mali to indoctrinate young people and to recruit child soldiers.
The Islamic radicals attacked Gao several times this week, their second assault on the strategic city since they retreated in the face of French and Malian military, and their young recruits appear to be part of the strategy of MUJAO, or Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.
“MUJAO took many of the students from the Quranic schools because they speak Arabic and are easier to convert and manipulate,” Gao Mayor Sadou Diallo told The Associated Press. “Between 200 and 300 children have disappeared with the jihadists.”
“The schools were all complicit. They didn’t have a choice — if you didn’t collaborate with MUJAO you died,” Diallo said.
An untold number of children are believed to have been killed in the January fighting in central Mali, he said, and when jihadist strongholds were bombed in Gao during the military intervention last month.
Dozens of child soldiers were believed to be living in a government customs building that was later bombed during the military offensive, residents say. The Islamic fighters took away their wounded before it could be determined how many casualties there were at the site.
The rubble of the building is littered with tiny children’s shoes, and notebooks and pieces of wood on which the children copied Quranic verses. The children’s writing in pen on notebook paper depicts verses seeking protection from evil.
Imams and directors of the Quranic schools in Gao say it was here that the youths were radicalized, while the existing schools continued their regular curriculum.
Students who were plucked from classrooms in Gao and the surrounding communities came to the customs building to study and prepare for war.
At the Adadatou Alislamiatou madrassa in Gao, pupils are now back in class after the disruptions caused by the fighting and a Feb. 10 attack when the militants re-invaded the city in a show of force before being forced back into the bush by French and Malian forces.
As the afternoon sun bakes the ground outside the classroom hut, 10-year-old Abdoulaye Ousmane leads his classmates in reciting Quranic verses while their teacher attends prayers at the nearby mosque.
Sporting a soccer jersey and flip-flops, Abdoulaye sings out the words as he traces the Arabic script in chalk with his pointer, and an exuberant group of nearly 50 other children loudly sing back to him loudly.
They sit cross-legged on mats on the sand floor of the thatched hut — the girls on one side all wearing headscarves with some carrying Hannah Montana backpacks, too.
As these students return to school after the MUAO occupation, their teachers say many have been traumatized by the gunfire and fighting. Religious instructors are also confronted with how best to guide their students who have been exposed to the extremist ideology of al-Qaida-linked militants.
During the reign of the MUJAO, the Islamic fighters amputated hands of suspected thieves in public squares. Billboards displayed around town ordered women to cover themselves in public.
The Islamic militants capitalized on the city’s poverty, offering sign-on bonuses and monthly salaries to those who joined their cause, imams said.
Abdourhamane Maiga, assistant director of the Adadatou Alislamiatou madrassa, recalls one student who dropped out of school after being asked to repeat a grade.
The next time Maiga saw the pupil, he was wielding a firearm with the Islamic fighters at their police headquarters downtown.
“They didn’t come here to practice Islam,” he says of the extremists. “The prophet never would have accepted a child of 10 years old waging jihad and taking up arms.”
Source: YAHOO NEWS.
By KRISTA LARSON | Associated Press
Now and again at approximately 2:30 to 3 am I am sometimes up and still working. I walk outside and stargaze a little. On 3 separate nights I have noticed a pink-rose glow in the WESTERN sky over the ocean at 3 am. This glow is coming from some sort of celestial object and looks EXACTLY like the sunrise in the east, which takes place in the OPPOSITE direction about 3.5 hours later. I have tried to photograph this 3 am sky glow but my camera is not that great and it hasn’t come through yet. Something is up. I can feel it. The glow is not supposed to be there, but there it is. Today I found these two videos – read on ….
The increasingly bold and hostile rumblings out of North Korea are not to be dismissed as only rhetoric. My sincerest hope is that the new Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration are facing these threats head on. This is not a time to under-estimate a deranged and impoverished regime, desperate for attention and relevance on the world political scene.
Originally posted on petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang:
God loves all, and He loves everyone, without exception. Not even the worst sinners can escape from His love. However, all of us, who truly love God in return, and keep His teachings and commandments, enjoy even greater love, and also He has made us His people, His children, and promise us every graces and blessings in our lives.
It is easy to love your friends, those who also love you, and your family, and those whom you know. It is easy to be with them and also live happily with them. But indeed, if we are all indeed called by God to be His missionaries to all the world, can we just stay content in being within our own sphere of safety? within our own comfort zone?
No! Indeed, as the Lord said to us, “Love our enemies” and “Pray for those who persecutes you”, we have to reach out to those who hate us, and especially to those whom because of the hate in our hearts, have hated too. It is natural for us humans to hate, as since the days of the fall of Adam and Eve, sin has entered the hearts of men, and therefore with it, came hatred, prejudice, and jealousy. It is natural for us to hate someone who hated us first, and it is natural for us to covet the possession of others, especially those who are more fortunate than us. However, remember that through our baptism in God, and through the Sacred Scripture that we read and listened to, we have all become the children of God, and have been made better than what our human natures allow us to be.
Newscasts are filled with bizarre headlines out of the Vatican leading up to the conclave to select a new Pope. Separating rumor from news is a task.
Originally posted on Rivers of Hope:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican lashed out Saturday at the media for what it said has been a run of defamatory and false reports before the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI’s successor, saying they were an attempt to influence the election.
Italian newspapers have been rife with unsourced reports in recent days about the contents of a secret dossier prepared for the pope by three cardinals who investigated the origins of the 2012 scandal over leaked Vatican documents.
The reports have suggested the revelations in the dossier, given to Benedict in December, were a factor in his decision to resign. The pope himself has said merely that he doesn’t have the “strength of mind and body” to carry on and would resign Feb. 28.
On Saturday, a day before Benedict’s final Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican secretariat of state said the Catholic Church has for centuries insisted on the independence of itscardinals to freely elect their pope — a reference to episodes in the past when kings and emperors vetoed papal contenders or prevented cardinals from voting outright.
“If in the past, the so-called powers, i.e., States, exerted pressures on the election of the pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the church is living,” the statement said.
“It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi was asked how specifically the media was trying to influence the outcome; Lombardi didn’t respond directly, saying only that the reports have tended to paint the Curia in a negative light “beyond the considerations and serene evaluations” of problems that cardinals might discuss before the conclave.
Some Vatican watchers have speculated that because the Vatican bureaucracy is heavily Italian, cardinals might be persuaded to elect a non-Italian, non-Vatican-based cardinal as pope to try to impose some reform on the Curia.
While Lombardi has said the reports “do not correspond to reality,” the pope and some of his closest collaborators have recently denounced the dysfunction in the Apostolic Palace.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, for example, criticized the “divisions, dissent, careerism, jealousies” that afflict the Vatican bureaucracy. He made the comments Friday, the penultimate day of the Vatican’s weeklong spiritual exercises that were attended by the pope and other officials. Ravasi, himself a papal contender, was chosen by Benedict to deliver daily meditations and on Saturday Benedict praised him for his “brilliant” work.
The divisions Ravasi spoke of were exposed by the documents taken from the pope’s study by his butler and then leaked by a journalist. The documents revealed the petty wrangling, corruption and cronyism and even allegations of a gay plot at the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
The three cardinals who investigated the theft had wide-ranging powers to interview even cardinals to get to the bottom of the dynamics within the Curia that resulted in the gravest Vatican security breach in modern times.
Benedict too has made reference to the divisions in recent days, deploring in his final Mass as pope on Ash Wednesday how the church is often “defiled” by attacks and divisions from within. Last Sunday, he urged its members to overcome “pride and egoism.”
On Saturday, in his final comments to the Curia, Benedict lamented the “evil, suffering and corruption” that have defaced God’s creation. But he also thanked the Vatican bureaucrats for having helped him “bear the burden” of his ministry with their work, love and faith these past eight years.
The Vatican’s attack on the media echoed its response to previous scandals, where it has tended not to address the underlying content of accusations, but has diverted attention away. During the 2010 explosion of sex abuse scandals, the Vatican accused the media of trying to attack the pope; during the 2012 leaks scandal, it accused the media of sensationalism without addressing the content of the leaked documents.
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Source: YAHOO NEWS.
By NICOLE WINFIELD | Associated Press