Christians Who Welcomed Neighbors Fleeing ISIS Receive Unexpected Gift From Glenn's Audience

Mar Elias stands for Saint Elijah, an Old Testament prophet. There is a shrine to Saint Elijah in Erbil, Iraq where Mar Elias church is. Mercury One and Glenn Beck visited this church and surrounding courtyard in December 2015. At the time it was being used as a refugee camp and occupied by over 1,000 Assyrian Christians.

How did the neighborhood of Ankawa in Erbil, Iraq grow from a population of 30,000 in 2011 to 100,000 in 2015?

In 2014, ISIS overtook the Nineveh province, a large area covering most of the northwestern part of Iraq that includes historic cities including Qaraqosh, Mosul, Batnay, Karemles, and other predominantly Christian towns. After ISIS took over their homes, citizens fled in droves to Erbil, a city to the east of the Nineveh province. Many of these refugees were Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, Yazidis and Muslims, who all ended up in various neighborhoods in and around Erbil.

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One of these neighborhoods was Ankawa, a bustling area which had several Christian churches, active open markets, crosses everywhere and a statue of the Virgin Mary at the entry point to the neighborhood welcoming anyone who came to the area. Generally speaking, it’s a very urban and western feeling area. There is an air of commerce, bumper to bumper traffic, a nightlife, and an engaged community. Ankawa is an anchor point for the Chaldean Catholic community in Iraq.

The neighborhood of Ankawa swelled to 100,000… that is more than triple the people living in the community. Tens of thousands of people arrived to the capital city of Erbil. The government was already financially burdened with the war and they could not provide enough resources to care for these displaced people. Many who journeyed into Erbil were Assyrian Catholics and they made their way to the churches in Ankawa and other neighboring areas seeking aid.

We talk a lot about what it means to be Christian and to live a Christian life. We could all take some cues from the residents and the Chaldean Catholic Church of Erbil and Ankawa. Instead of placing restrictions on aid or turning these people away, they opened their hearts and the neighborhood to them. The churches responded by turning their properties into refugee camps. The residents responded by welcoming and providing assistance as they could.

The refugee camps were throughout Erbil. Mar Elias is just one such camp and it is the first place that Mercury One went to assist. In December 2015, Mercury One arrived in Mar Elias (in Ankawa), where the refugees had been granted temporary permission to occupy the holy shrine and had made the square and the church a permanent home. Over 1,000 people lived in this area which is the size of a typical strip mall/retail center in the U.S. This courtyard and accompanying building had become a semi-permanent home. There was running water and a sewage system developed. A primary and a secondary school was created and the community committed to educating the children who lived here. There was a daycare. If possible (which you can imagine was extremely difficult), families were finding ways to make money. An open-air market had been organized and opened just outside of the courtyard’s gates… so a place for commerce was established.

Mar Elias had become the center of the Christian refugees in Ankawa. People from other camps would come to Mar Elias to socialize and share news. There was a volleyball court set-up that was incredibly popular, probably because it was just something so simple and normal and fun, an escape from the trauma these refugees had suffered and continued to endure. Some of the refugees were artisans and created a beautiful public art piece that serves as a war memorial for those that have been lost in this violent, bloody time.

In December Mercury One moved from Mar Elias 149 people – 62 children, 25 families – to Slovakia. This was the beginning of our ability to impact the lives of these people. But, it didn’t take long for Mercury One to understand that the best solution, and the solution desired by those who were impacted the most, the Christian and Yazidi population in the region was to find a way to stay in their homeland. We just knew that the life they were building in the Mar Elias’s courtyard and buildings was not a permanent solution. Though, the community had organized and it didn’t seem like there was a place to go.

It took almost 10 months, but by October 2016, the last refugees were cleared out and the grounds were abated, rebuilding and restoration process had begun. The refugees were resettled to private homes and apartments in and around Erbil which were funded by Mercury One.

Nearly 6 months later, Mercury One is proud, for the people of the Ankawa community, that Mar Elias has been restored. The Church is once again a place for quiet contemplation and worship. It was beautifully restored in time to host special services over Easter weekend.

On Palm Sunday, Mar Elias was packed with locals and refugees to mark the beginning of Holy Week.

Republished with permission from MercuryOne.org.

Stop trying to be right and think of the children

Mario Tama/Getty Images

All the outrage this week has mainly focused on one thing: the evil Trump administration and its minions who delight in taking children from their illegal immigrant parents and throwing them all in dungeons. Separate dungeons, mind you.

That makes for a nice, easy storyline, but the reality is less convenient. Most Americans seem to agree that separating children from their parents — even if their parents entered the US illegally — is a bad thing. But what if that mom and dad you're trying to keep the kids with aren't really the kids' parents? Believe it or not, fraud happens.

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While there are plenty of heartbreaking stories of parents simply seeking a chance for a better life for their children in the US, there are also corrupt, abusive human traffickers who profit from the illegal immigration trade. And sorting all of this out is no easy task.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security said that since October 2017, more than 300 children have arrived at the border with adults claiming to be their parents who turned out not to be relatives. 90 of these fraud cases came from the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.

In 2017, DHS reported 46 causes of fraudulent family claims. But there have already been 191 fraud cases in 2018.

Shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pointed out this 315 percent increase, the New York Times was quick to give these family fraud cases "context" by noting they make up less than one percent of the total number of illegal immigrant families apprehended at the southern border. Their implication was that Nielsen was exaggerating the numbers. Even if the number of fraud cases at the border was only 0.001 percent, shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

This is the most infuriating part of this whole conversation this week (if you can call it a "conversation") — that both sides have an angle to defend. And while everyone's busy yelling and making their case, children are being abused.

What if we just tried, for two seconds, to love having mercy more than we love having to be right all the time?

Remember when cartoons were happy things? Each panel took you on a tiny journey, carrying you to an unexplored place. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes:

The comics creator asks us to join in a silent dance of the seen and the unseen. The visible and the invisible. This dance is unique to comics. No other artform gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well. This is why I think it's a mistake to see comics as a mere hybrid of the graphic arts and prose fiction. What happens between . . . panels is a kind of magic only comics can create.

When that magic is manipulated or politicized, it often devolves the artform into a baseless thing. Yesterday, Occupy Wall Street published the perfect example of low-brow deviation of the artform: A six-panel approach at satire, which imitates the instructions-panel found in the netted cubbyhole behind seats on airplanes. The cartoon is a critique of the recent news about immigrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border. It is a step-by-step guide to murdering US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

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The first panel shows a man shoving an infant into a cage meant for Pomeranians. The following five panels feature instructions, and include pictures of a cartoonish murder.

The panels read as follows:

  1. If an ICE agent tries to take your child at the border, don't panic.
  2. Pull your child away as quickly as possibly by force.
  3. Gently tell your child to close his/her eyes and ears so they won't witness what you are about to do.
  4. Grab the ICE agent from behind and push your knife into his chest with an upward thrust, causing the agent's sternum to break.
  5. Reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart.
  6. Hold his bloody heart out for all other agents to see, and tell them that the same fate awaits them if they f--- with your child again.

Violent comics are nothing new. But most of the time, they remain in the realms of invented worlds — in other words, not in our own, with reference to actual people, let alone federal agents.

The mainstream media made a game of crying racism with every cartoon depiction of Obama during his presidency, as well as during his tenure as Senator, when the New Yorker, of all things, faced scrutiny for depicting him in "Muslim clothing." Life was a minefield for political cartoonists during the Obama era.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

This year, we saw the leftist outrage regarding The Simpsons character Apu — a cartoon representation of a highly-respected, though cartoonishly-depicted, character on a cartoon show composed of cartoonishly-depicted characters.

We all remember Charlie Hebdo, which, like many outlets that have used cartoon satire to criticize Islam, faced the wrath and ire of people unable to see even the tamest representation of the prophet, Muhammad.

Interesting, isn't it? Occupy Wall Street publishes a cartoon that advocates murdering federal agents, and critics are told to lighten up. Meanwhile, the merest depiction of Muhammad has resulted in riots throughout the world, murder and terror on an unprecedented scale.

The intersection of Islam and comics is complex enough to have its own three-hour show, so we'll leave it at that, for now. Although, it is worth mentioning the commentary by satirical website The Onion, which featured a highly offensive cartoon of all the major religious figures except Muhammad. It noted:

Following the publication of the image above, in which the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened.

Of course, Occupy Wall Street is free to publish any cartoon they like. Freedom of speech, and so on—although there have been several instances in which violent cartoons were ruled to have violated the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" limitation of the First Amendment.

Posting it to Twitter is another issue — this is surely in violation of Twitter's violent content policy, but something tells me nothing will come of it. It's a funny world, isn't it? A screenshot of a receipt from Chick-fil-A causes outrage but a cartoon advocating murder gets crickets.

RELATED: Twitter mob goes ballistic over Father's Day photo of Caitlyn Jenner. Who cares?

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud concludes that, "Today the possibilities for comics are — as they've always been — endless. Comics offers . . . range and versatility, with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word. And all that's needed is the desire to be heard, the will to learn, and the ability to see."

Smile, and keep moving forward.

Crude and awful as the Occupy Wall Street comic is, the best thing we can do is nod and look elsewhere for the art that will open our eyes. Let the lunatics draw what they want, let them stew in their own flawed double standards. Otherwise, we're as shallow and empty as they are, and nothing good comes of that. Smile, and keep moving forward.

Things are getting better. Show the world how to hear, how to learn, how to see.

People should start listening to Nikki Haley

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Okay. Let's take a vote. You know, an objective, quantifiable count. How many resolutions has the UN Human Rights Council adopted condemning dictatorships? Easy. Well. How do you define "dictatorship"?

Well, one metric is the UN Human Rights Council Condemnation. How many have the United Nations issued to China, with a body count higher than a professional Call of Duty player?

Zero.

How about Venezuela, where socialism is devouring its own in the cruelest, most unsettling ways imaginable?

Zero.

And Russia, home of unsettling cruelty and rampant censorship, murder and (actual) homophobia?

Zero.

Iraq? Zero. Turkey? Iraq? Zero. Cuba? Zero. Pakistan? Zero.

RELATED: Nikki Haley just dropped some serious verbal bombs on Russia at the UN

According to UN Human Rights Council Condemnations, 2006-2016, none of these nations is as dangerous as we'd imagined. Or, rather, none of them faced a single condemnation. Meanwhile, one country in particular has faced unbelievable scrutiny and fury — you'll never guess which country.

No, it's not Somalia. It's Israel. With 68 UN Human Rights Council Condemnations! In fact, the number of total United Nations condemnations against Israel outnumbers the total of condemnations against all other countries combined. The only country that comes close is Syria, with 15.

The Trump administration withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday in protest of what it perceives as an entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers as members.

In an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Nikki Haley said:

Let's remember that the Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday... No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.

Maybe people should start listening to Haley. Hopefully, they will. Not likely, but there's no crime in remaining hopeful.

Here's a question unique to our times: "Should I tell my father 'Happy Father's Day,' even though he (she?) is now one of my mothers?"

Father's Day was four days ago, yes, but this story is just weird enough to report on. One enjoyable line to read was this gem from Hollywood Gossip: "Cait is a woman and a transgender icon, but she is also and will always be the father of her six children."

RELATED: If Bruce was never a he and always a she, who won the men's Olympic gold in 1976?

Imagine reading that to someone ten — even five — years ago. And, honestly, there's something nice about it. But the strangeness of its having ever been written overpowers any emotional impact it might bring.

"So lucky to have you," wrote Kylie Jenner, in the Instagram caption under pre-transition pictures of Bruce Jenner.

Look. I risk sounding like a tabloid by mere dint of having even mentioned this story, but the important element is the cultural sway that's occurring. The original story was that a band of disgruntled Twitter users got outraged about the supposed "transphobic" remarks by Jenner's daughter.

But, what we should be saying is, "who the hell cares?" Who cares what one Jenner says to another — and more importantly and on a far deeper level — who cares what some anonymous Twitter user has to say?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob? Because, at the moment, they've got it pretty good. They have a nifty relationship with the mainstream media: One or two Twitter users get outraged by any given thing — in this case Jenner and supposed transphobia. In return, the mainstream media use the Twitter comment as a source.

Then, a larger Twitter audience points to the article itself as proof that there's some kind of systemic justice at play. It's a closed-market currency, where the negative feedback loop of proof and evidence is composed of faulty accusations. Isn't it a hell of a time to be alive?