This morning I woke up as I usually do, to the sounds of my daughter babbling through the baby monitor. I heated her milk and watched her happily slurp it down. I put the coffee on while my wife prepared for work. It was a morning like any other, filled with the sheer goodness of normal life.
And then—because I clearly spend too much time on Twitter—I thought to myself, "#ThankYouPetrov."
As vividly depicted in the new film The Man Who Saved the World, Stanislav Petrov was the on-duty officer at a Soviet advance warning base on Sept. 26, 1983, when computers indicated a surprise nuclear attack by the United States. If Petrov had authenticated the attack, as protocol required, the USSR would have certainly launched a (mistaken) retaliatory strike, initiating nuclear war, the deaths of hundreds of millions and social collapse on a planetary scale. more >>
In issuing its first report on the plight of Iraqi children for the first time since 1998, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child painted a horrifying glimpse into how the Islamic State terrorist organizations is beheading, crucifying, and even burying alive religious minority children.
The report, which was released Wednesday and was written by a committee of 18 independent experts, finds that not only are ISIS militants killing religious minority boys in scores, but they've also found a way to take advantage of the mentally weak Iraqi children, by using their harmless bodies in jihad attacks.
Committee expert Renate Winter said at the press conference introducing the report that the militant group is using mentally-challenged children as suicide bombers, and he thinks many of them go into their fatal suicide plots without even knowing that they will die as a consequence. more >>
Leading Evangelist Franklin Graham took to Facebook on Thursday to respond to President Barack Obama's implication at the National Prayer Breakfast that ISIS' brutality abuse of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria is similar to that of Christian brutality over 1,000 years ago.
In a post on his public Facebook page, Graham, the son of world-renowned Evangelist Billy Graham and the current president of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, argued that just because people have used Jesus' name for "evil" purposes in the past does not mean that Jesus actually called on his followers to do such horrible acts, like the Crusades.
"Today at the National Prayer Breakfast, the President implied that what ISIS is doing is equivalent to what happened over 1000 years ago during the Crusades and the Inquisition," Graham wrote. "Mr. President — Many people in history have used the name of Jesus Christ to accomplish evil things for their own desires. But Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness." more >>
President Obama called on people of faith to reject those who use religion to justify evil – and in doing so – reminded people about the terrible things done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Obama told a gathering Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast that we have seen "professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good but twisted in the name of evil."
"From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith – their faith – profess to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it," he said. He did not mention radical Islam or jihadists or Islamic extremists. He did, however, call ISIS a "brutal, vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism." more >>
The courage and sacrifice of today's Christian martyrs should not go unnoticed and unappreciated. One such heroic figure, the 94-year-old Roman Catholic bishop Cosma Shi Enxiang, has recently died in Chinese custody, according to an official government statement, reported on February 2 by an independent Catholic news service focusing on Asia. His generation felt the brunt of Chinese Communist cruelty, but his death as a religious prisoner reminds us that religious repression in China is far from over.
Altogether, since 1954, Bishop Shi was held captive for over 40 years by the Communist government for his religion, making him one of the longest serving political prisoners of our age. (I intend in no way to minimize the suffering of Nelson Mandela and Alexander Solzhenitsyn by pointing out that Mandela was imprisoned by South Africa's apartheid government for 27 years, and that Solzhenitsyn was forced to spend eleven years in the Soviet gulag.)
He was incarcerated for refusing to submit to government religious oversight — oversight that precludes, for example, preaching against abortion and female infanticide. His final detention, at a secret location, lasted 14 years and nothing is known about it. His first prison term spanned 23 years, from 1957 to 1980, and was mostly spent doing hard labor, first at a labor camp in Heilongjiang province, then in coal mines in Shanxi province. He was rearrested in 1989 and released in 1993. Though his health was ruined, he continued to serve as bishop in the years in between. more >>
Like so many others, I find it impossible to believe Brian Williams simply "made a mistake." At the risk of indulging in armchair pop psychology, I'd say it's far more likely that a titanic ego collided with reality, and reality lost.
In my own experience, there are few things more humbling than getting downrange and realizing that — no matter your accomplishments back home — you're not really a big deal. It's especially humbling when your accomplishments are all in the civilian world, with the "bragging rights" consisting of degrees from fancy schools, cool media appearances, and writing opportunities — all things that mean exactly jack and squat when you come face-to-face with young guys who know what it's like to look death in the eye and do their job with courage and honor. Even an NBC News anchor can feel small next to a guy who just kicked down a door and went in with no knowledge of what was waiting for him on the other side, or just rolled back into the gate after a six-hour firefight. That's not to say that it's not a real accomplishment to become a news anchor. It is. But it's not one that requires the depth of courage and fortitude a person sees at war. And the contrast can be humbling — or humiliating, if one is given over to arrogance and envy.
I served with heroes. I've told many stories from my deployment, of guys who did things I'll never do. It was an honor to serve with them, and to do what little I could to facilitate and empower their work. But I'm not them. My story will never be their story. And that's okay. more >>