Siblings Reunited With Their Family 10 Years After Indonesian Tsunami (Plus Pictures from Aceh)


In the midst of a lot of negative news in the media comes a wonderful story of two siblings, thought to be dead, reunited with their family 10 years after the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia that killed about 275,000 people. One sibling was found alive about three weeks ago, as this August 8th Washington Post article describes:

She had been holding onto her parents as they floated on a plank of wood when the tsunami hit her home, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur International. But Raudhatul and her then 7-year-old brother, Arif Pratama Rangkuti, slipped from their father’s grasp. The family never saw the two children again until Wednesday when Raudhatul, now 14, was reunited with her family.

“My heart beat so fast when I saw her. I hugged her, and she hugged me back and felt so comfortable in my arms,” said Jamaliah Jannah, Raudhatul’s mother, in an interview with Agence France-Presse

Young Raudhatul had been swept onto a remote island, when she was found by a fisherman who returned her to the mainland. For the next 10 years, that fisherman’s mother raised her by the name of Wenni, according to AFP.

Then one day in June, Raudhatul’s uncle saw a young girl who looked like his missing niece. He asked around and learned that she had been found on Banyak Island after the tsunami.

“My husband and I are very happy we have found her,” her mother told DPA. “This is a miracle from God.”

The couple’s other missing child would be about 17 years old now, and they believe that, like his sister, he may still  be alive.

“We will look for him on Banyak Island because we believe he is still alive,” Jamaliah Jannah said according to DPA.

If he did live, Raudhatul’s older brother would be among the luckiest. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 275,000 people according to the U.S. Geological Survey, making it the deadliest tsunami since the Renaissance Age.

Advertisements

The Wolf Has Been Approaching for 29 Years/Good News for the People of Iran


In a recent post, I opened by citing the words of Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who pointed out that Israel has been claiming for the last 22 years that Iran is mere months away from having a nuclear weapon. It turns out that this rhetoric has actually been going on for at least 29 years – since I was in kindergarten, Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his first term in office, and seven years before the World Wide Web was introduced.

On November 27th, Mondoweiss re-posted a Twitter status from Richard Silverstein, the creator of the Tikun Olam blog, showing a Maariv headline from April 25, 1984. The headline read: “Iran In Final Stages of Production of Nuclear Bomb.”

Maariv headline

Maariv is a Hebrew-language daily newspaper, which was founded in 1948, and is the second highest selling newspaper in Israel. To be fair, the above story in Maariv cited Jane’s Defence Weekly,  which quoted West German intelligence sources regarding Iran. For a good perspective on the long-repeated warnings about Iran’s nuclear program, see this timeline at The Christian Science Monitor. The loudest warnings have come from the United States, the world’s nuclear champion and a signatory of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), and Israel, a nation believed to have as many as 200 nuclear weapons (undeclared) and a nation which has refused to sign the NPT.

As is now well-known, Iran signed an interim 6-month agreement on November 23rd, after a couple rounds of discussions with the United States and several other nations. The US will provide “limited” and “modest” sanctions relief in exchange for Iran “halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles,” among other concessions. According to President Obama, America’s toughest sanctions will continue to be applied to Iran. New channels of communication have certainly opened between Iran, the US, and other countries in recent weeks.

Many nations have treated these developments as good news. Saudi Arabia and certain other Gulf States (strongly opposed to the Shiite form of Islam) have not. Israel, predictably, is going nuts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had these words to say the next day:

“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world… Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself…”

It’s hard to know if Netanyahu actually believes what he says or not. The government he represents has been crying wolf on Iran for 29 years. Some are suggesting that Israel needs to keep hyping up the Iran issue in order to deflect attention away from its illegal settlements, bulldozing of Palestinian homes, the blockade on Gaza, and other controversial domestic activities.

Just as predictably, Christian Zionist sources (for example, author Joel Rosenberg) have lined up to agree with Netanyahu and continue to demonize Iran.

I’m glad to see these recent developments, though, and I believe they are good steps in the right direction. They are especially good for the people of Iran, who have been suffering the effects of harsh sanctions. As I shared in a post on this subject almost a month ago, the effects of sanctions on the Iranian people have included “a 20% unemployment rate, a 30% – 50% inflation rate, expensive basic goods, the plunging value of Iran’s currency, increasingly unsafe commercial aircraft, an increasing inability to export oil, and other economic ramifications. They are also said to be resulting in half the population struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves, and struggling to maintain emotional health.”

Iranian Muslims, Iranian Jews, and Iranian Christians alike have experienced these things, in part due to a relentless campaign of deceit, politicking, and warmongering that has been vigorously supported by the Christian Zionist movement. Only God knows the extent to which Iranian and Palestinian Christians have suffered needlessly as a result of activities and rhetoric coming from many of their professing brothers and sisters in Christ.

An NBC News article highlights the provisions Iran can expect to see with the new easing of sanctions, concluding that Iran’s people will only see “precious little” relief in the short-term future, but that this deal provides “far more of a psychological benefit than an economic one” for now. Some groups are still investing in efforts to not only reverse these changes, but to bring even harsher sanctions quite soon. Others are watching for the slightest indication that Iran is not holding up its end of this deal, so that such actions can be justified (allegedly). Meanwhile, in plain sight are 2007 intelligence reports and other official statements from the CIA, Mossad, and other agencies agreeing that there is no evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

While Israeli and Christian Zionist leaders continue to say that Iran is bent on destroying Israel, Iran’s Jewish parliamentary representative, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, praises Iran for allowing Iranian Jews to worship freely. Sedgh states that conditions for Iranian Jews are “better than yesterday, and today, our condition is much better than 10 years or 20 years ago.” Interestingly, he added that Iran’s Jewish community chose not to commemorate Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008 because they are “in complete disagreement with the behavior of Israel” and its “anti-human behavior.”

The secular nation of Israel will do as it will do. As for God’s people, may we reflect and work toward God’s desire to see the nations, including Iran and Israel, healed by the river of life that flows from His throne (Revelation 22:1-2).

US Congress Ignores Drone Attack Survivors in Washington DC


I don’t use this blog to wade into partisan politics, but I do pay attention to certain components of American politics, and in particular I care about our foreign policy. If you were to ask me right now, as an American, how many nations America is at war with, I’m not sure I could give you an accurate response. There are the official wars, and then there are the unofficial wars. I find all of them to be disturbing.

Launching drone missiles into other nations and killing their citizens – these are acts of war. If any other nation sent drone strikes into Austin, Boston, or Tuscon, killing residents there, it’s not hard to imagine how the US would react and how we would label such acts. However, there’s apparently a world of difference if we’re the perpetrators rather than the victims. The US may not officially be at war with Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, but our government under both George Bush and Barack Obama (and any hidden hands that order their steps) has been carrying out acts of war against these nations, and the American public is mostly silent.

Hundreds of civilians, including women and children, have been killed by American drone strikes. Others have lost body limbs. Even more people are afraid to step outside, walk to school, go to the neighborhood convenience store, etc. I’ve bookmarked a number of articles on this phenomenon, with eye-opening statistics and more, and I’ll probably include most of them in a future post.

In this post I’d like to share an article about a Congressional hearing on this issue that took place in Washington, DC at the end of October. I had read about this upcoming hearing, where US lawmakers could hear from drone attack survivors for the first time. I had read about the Pakistani lawyer representing these survivors being repeatedly harrassed by manufactured visa issues. And I had hoped that this hearing would be well attended, well publicized, and effective in turning the tide toward justice and compassion. Out of America’s 535 lawmakers (435 Congress representatives and 100 Senators), only five had the decency to attend:

In “historic” briefing, Rehman family gives heartbreaking account of drone killing of 65-year-old grandmother… to five lawmakers.

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer: October 29, 2013

The Rehman family waits to testify at the Congressional Briefing on drone strikes Tuesday, October 29. (Photo: @akneerudh/ Twitter)

Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. lawmakers would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing that took place Tuesday.

Nabila Rehman, 9, holds up a picture she drew depicting the US drone strike on her Pakistan village which killed her grandmother. (Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children—9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair—came to Washington, DC to give their account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq’s mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan last October.

According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).

Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.

In her testimony, Nabila shared that she was picking okra with her grandmother when the U.S. missile struck and both children described how they used to play outside but are now too afraid.

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey,” said [13 year old] Zubair, whose leg was injured by shrapnel during the strike.

“My grandmother was nobody’s enemy,” he added.

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama last week. “The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 65-year-old grandmother of nine.”

“But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this,” Rafiq continued. “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable.”

He concluded, “Quite simply, nobody seems to care.”

You can watch a recording of the briefing below and here:

The purpose of the briefing, Grayson told the Guardian, is “simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war.”

The family was joined by their legal representative Jennifer Gibson of the UK human rights organization Reprieve. Their Islamabad-based lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, was also supposed to be present but was denied a visa by the US authorities—”a recurring problem,” according to Reprieve, “since he began representing civilian victims of drone strikes in 2011.”

“The onus is now on President Obama and his Administration to bring this war out of the shadows and to give answers,” said Gibson.

Also present was U.S. filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who first met Rafiq when he traveled to Pakistan to interview the drone strike victims for his documentary Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.  Before the briefing, Greenwald told the Guardian that he hoped the briefing “will begin the process of demanding investigation. Innocent people are being killed.”

The following clip from Unmanned was shown at Tuesday’s hearing: