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Lonna Lisa Williams

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Walk with me through ancient temples, churches, castles, mosques, and palaces of Turkey where I spent 2.5 years teaching English and exploring that beautiful country.

May 2014 Posts

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  Walk with Me in Turkey
Blog Entry

I Survived Divorce and Taught English Overseas

posted by Lonna Lisa Williams, FullThursday, May 29th 2014 @ 9:59 PM (not yet rated)    post viewed 1471 times

I left my abusive husband and took my 2 children to New Zealand where we had previously lived and had friends on a sheep farm.  After losing an international court battle against my rich ex-husband, I returned to California with my children but could not live with them again.  I lost my beautiful California mountain home east of Los Angeles and was no longer a rich housewife and homeschool mother who had given up teaching university English to raise my kids.  I spent a year and a half looking for a teaching job in America and found nothing, not even part-time substitute work.  So, in October of 2010, I went overseas--to an English teaching job in Samara, Russia.  I spent 6 long months through a Russian winter when the Volga River froze so solid that trucks could drive across it.  When my Russian boss wouldn't pay me what he promised, I found a job Online in Turkey, and I had just enough money to fly to Istanbul.  

Read the first part of my overseas teaching adventures in my book "Fire and Ice."

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007U7KYJ8

The second half of the story can be found in my eBook "Walk with Me in Turkey."

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ILG7486

Now I teach English in northeast China and continue doing my photo essays for "Digital Journal," hoping to put them in a new book, "Walk with Me in China."  You can see my essay about "Climbing the Great Wall of China" here:  

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/photo-essay-climbing-the-great-wall-of-china/article/37525 7

When God tests us, we must fight.  He can give us the strength--and adventures, too, though the path may be lonely, as it is now for me here in China.  I hope my children Jessica (now 21) and Jonathan (18) visit me soon.  I haven't seen them in the entire time I've been "Teaching English Overseas":

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/342146  

http://www.expatsblog.com/articles/1584/teaching-english-as-a-foreign-language-tefl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog Entry

I Survived Cancer

posted by Lonna Lisa Williams, FullThursday, May 29th 2014 @ 9:45 PM (not yet rated)    post viewed 1127 times

I've had to survive a lot of things in my life.  My father died when I was 4.  My mother followed 20 years later, and then my only brother disappeared a year after that.  I've been through a nasty divorce and was alienated from my children for nearly 3 years.  I've had to teach English overseas for the past 4 years because, after my divorce, I couldn't find a teaching job in America, though I have a Master's degree in English, a teaching credential, and experience.  Perhaps the biggest battle of my life was 18 years ago when I battled a serious case of non-hodgkins lymphoma and endured surgery and 4 months of chemotherapy.  I lost all my hair, got weekly shots and blood work, and looked as pale as a survivor of Hiroshima.  My son Jonathan was just a baby, and my daugther Jessica was 3.  I wrote 2 books about how, with their help and the help of my friends at church and, of course, Jesus Christ, I made it through to this point where my son is now attending a California university.

Read my full story, "Crossing the Chemo Room," here:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007TXXII2

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Blog Entry

Dangerous to Be a Christian

posted by Lonna Lisa Williams, FullThursday, May 29th 2014 @ 9:40 PM (not yet rated)    post viewed 1076 times

“Dangerous to Be a Christian” 

By Lonna Lisa Williams, M.A.

 April 6, 2014 

Published in Digital Journal and The Clarion Project

 

It seems like every week I read about another Christian killed by an Islamist who yells "Allahu Akbar" as he slices off a head or stabs a heart. In fact, 2013 saw an alarming rise of attacks on Christians that has continued into the first quarter of 2014. According to Open Doors, an organization that tracks Christian persecution worldwide, 2,123 Christians were killed last year due to their faith, compared to 1,201 in 2012. More than half of those reported killings (1,213) occurred in Syria, followed by Nigeria (612) and Pakistan (88). North Korea, Somalia, and Iraq were among the top worst places for a Christian to live.

In Syria, the Islamist rebels have been attacking ancient Christian towns which were established 2000 years ago, centuries before the beginnings of Islam. The apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, and some Christians from the town of Maaloula can still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. A resident of Maalula called her fiancé’s cell phone and was told by member of the Free Syrian Army that they gave him a chance to convert to Islam and he refused, so they slit his throat. Christians constituted about 30% of Syria's population in the 1920s. Today, they make up about 10% of Syria's 22 million people. That number is dwindling as Jihdists burn churches, torture Christians, and throw their bodies into mass graves. In the small town of Sadad, at least 45 people, including women and children, were killed. A Christian bishop's body was found dumped on a roadside, his eyes gouged out. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham recently said that more than 1,000 Christians had been killed, "entire villages… cleared of their Christian inhabitants," and more than 40 churches and Christian centers damaged or destroyed.

On April 6, 2014, news got out that the Armenian Christian city of Kessab, which is in northwest Syria on the border with Turkey, was attacked by Islamic rebels who burned churches, looted homes, and murdered 80 people, many elderly. The Islamists beheaded at least 13 Christians. Beheading, backed by Islamic Sharia law, is a popular form of execution in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International condemns such public beheadings and the crucifixion-style display of bodies. Kessab residents complained that Turkey allowed Islamic fighters and weapons to cross the border into Syria, echoing the infamous Armenian Genocide of the early 20th Century in which the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 million Armenian Christians.

The "Boko Haram" ("Western Education is Sinful") terrorist group in Nigeria seeks to create an Islamic state. These terrorists have been sneaking into Christian schools at night and killing children while they slept. In February, 2014, Boko Haram killed 300 people, including an entire village they burned to the ground. In a video sent to AFP in February, Boko Haram's purported leader Abubakar Shekau said he would continue his relentless campaign of violence on anyone who supported democracy or so-called Western values. Boko Haram's four-year insurgency has claimed more than 3,600 lives since 2009. Nigeria's 160 million population is roughly divided between a mainly Christian south and mostly Muslim north.

In September of 2013, Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 85 worshippers at All Saints’ church, which has stood since 1883 in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. The attack on a Kenyan mall the same week was led by Somali al-Shabab terrorists who targeted Christians and let Muslims go free. Further persecution happened in Pakistan when a Muslim man accused a Christian man of blasphemy against Islam, igniting an angry Islamic mob that burned churches, Bibles, and a Christian neighborhood. Recently, that Christian man, Sawan Masih, was sentenced to death for blasphemy. He maintains his innocence, stating that he was falsely accused by his Muslim acquaintance over a land dispute.

Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer and expert on religious persecution, testified in 2011 before Congress regarding the fate of Iraqi Christians, two-thirds of whom have vanished from the country. They have either been murdered or fled in fear for their lives. Said Shea: “In August 2004 … five churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul. On a single day in July 2009, seven churches were bombed in Baghdad … The archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped and killed in early 2008. A bus convoy of Christian students were violently assaulted. Christians … have been raped, tortured, kidnapped, beheaded, and evicted from their homes …”

Even in "moderate" Islamic-bending countries like Turkey, Christians have been attacked and killed, including several pastors or church workers whose throats were slit. I attended a church near Istanbul where the pastor and his family were given death threats, and the church was sometimes shot at with guns. My Turkish husband was tortured by the Turkish police who threatened to "rape your Christian wife" (that would be me). One afternoon in Izmit we watched a Muslim Brotherhood group march through city center. Men, clad in black, yelled "Allahu Akbar!" with a few covered women and children following behind. I wanted to say something to them, but my husband grabbed my arm and led me away, whispering,

"It is dangerous for you here. They could attack you."

Egyptian Coptic Christians are facing their worst persecution since the 14th Century. After the fall of Islamist President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood struck out against Egyptian Christians, the largest and one of the oldest Christian groups in the Middle East. At least 70 churches were burned or damaged, Christian homes destroyed, and Christians killed. Women and children were shot down outside a church during a Christian wedding. Nuns were paraded through the streets. 

Stalin once stated, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." So instead of leaving you with overwhelming statistics of Christians being slaughtered or driven out of the birthplace of Christianity, I will give you the face of one woman. According to eyewitnesses, Mary Sameh George, a young Egyptian Christian, was parked outside a church on March 28, 2014 as Muslim Brotherhood rioters attacked. They fired guns on the church and set nearby cars aflame, killing 4 Christians, including Mary. They saw a cross hanging from Mary's rearview mirror and jumped on top of her car, pulled her out, undressed and molested her, pulled her hair, kicked her, and stabbed her in the heart. Then they slit her throat and paraded her naked body.

She had come to deliver medicine to a sick, elderly church member. She did not deserve to die like that. The Egyptian police did not intervene to help her.

Martin Luther King said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Why is America and Europe keeping silent about the systematic genocide of Christians in the Middle East? Why are they harboring Islamists with dangerous agendas and allowing even their top leaders to support the Muslim Brotherhood that has been labeled a terrorist organization and banned in Egypt and Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps we will get no clear answers. We will feel safe in our American or English homes, far away from such violence. Or so we think. Last week an award-winning German journalist was shot to death as she sat in a car in Afghanistan. Her Islamist attacker yelled, "Allahu Akbar" before riddling her car with bullets from an AK-47. Was she thought to be a Christian? Last year, a British soldier was beheaded by Islamists on a busy London street, in daylight. Was he targeted because he was seen as a Christian? Last year, a Muslim man was accused of beheading and burying 2 Christians of Egyptian Coptic descent. This happened in New Jersey, U.S.A.

The world is increasingly proving that it's dangerous to be a Christian. Jesus said, "The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service." Perhaps that time has come.

 

 

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Blog Entry

Islamists Attack Christians in Syria and the Media Keeps Silent

posted by Lonna Lisa Williams, FullThursday, May 29th 2014 @ 6:08 PM (not yet rated)    post viewed 1167 times

“Echoes of Armenian Genocide as Turkey Supports Attacks on Kessab” 

By Lonna Lisa Williams

 April 8, 2014

 Published in Digital Journal and The Clarion Project

 

The Armenian Christian city of Kessab, in northwest Syria on the border with Turkey, has been attacked more than once by Islamic rebels. Kessab was the last Turkey/Syria border town to be taken by rebels. In the most recent attack on Friday, April 4, Islamists burned churches, looted homes, and murdered 80 people, many elderly. They beheaded at least 13 Christians. Beheading, backed by Islamic Sharia law, is a popular form of execution in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International condemns such public beheadings and the crucifixion-style display of bodies. Kessab residents complained that Turkey allowed Islamic fighters and weapons to cross the border into Syria, echoing the infamous Armenian Genocide of the early 20th Century in which the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 million Armenian Christians.

Turkey currently denies the Armenian Genocide. April 24 was supposed to be a National Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, but Turkish lobbyists have prevented that from happening in the U.S.A. It is illegal to mention the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, which goes against the infamous "Article 301" of the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a crime to "insult the Turkish Nation." Doing so can land a Turk in prison for up to two years. Article 301 was established in 2005 by Prime Minister Erdogan's Islamist Ak Party and has widely been criticized by the European Union for limiting free speech.

Famous Turks have been accused of violating Article 301 by mentioning the Armenian Genocide, including author Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk is the best-selling Turkish author, the first to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature, a university professor, and a popular speaker. Despite his status, his books have been burned, and he has been a target of assassination attempts. I heard Pamuk give an impassioned plea for freedom of speech at a rally in Antalya, Turkey in 2012. Many people in the crowd, who supported Ataturk's secular democratic ideals and his CHP Party, cheered the modest-looking, graying man with glasses who held up one of his books.

In 2006, the well-known Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was prosecuted under the Article 301 for insulting Turkishness and received a six-month suspended sentence. He was later assassinated by radical nationalists. Orhan Pamuk declared, "In a sense, we are all responsible for his death. However, at the very forefront of this responsibility are those who still defend article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Those who campaigned against him, those who portrayed this sibling of ours as an enemy of Turkey, those who painted him as a target, they are the most responsible in this."

So who is helping the people of Kessab? Celebrity Kim Kardashian recently posted on Twitter, "If you don’t know what’s going on in Kessab please google it ... As an Armenian, I grew up hearing so many painful stories!" She also put the hashtags #SaveKessab and #ArmenianGenocide together and was criticized for her efforts by The Daily Star. International Business Times gave Kardashian more credibility and added a quote by Armenian MP Arman Saakyan on Facebook, "All we want is to live. If you ignore our appeal, we will be killed by extremists, same as it happened in Aleppo and other places in the Syrian territory."

On April 4, The Los Angeles Times reported, "Thousands of Syrian rebels, many of them with Islamist radical groups, including some linked to Al Qaeda, surged across the Turkish-Syrian border March 21 and seized a swath of mountainous territory in northwestern Syria's Latakia province, including Kasab (Kessab)." It also mentioned that on March 28, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles to protest Turkey's aid in attacks against Kessab. People waved signs that read "Freedom from Turkish Aggression!"

When I was living in Turkey, I interviewed a Turk who was descended from Armenian Christians on his father's side. He told me how about his grandfather as we visited the man's modest grave in a Muslim cemetery that overlooked the sea:

"Many people in the Black Sea region died about 100 years ago when the last of the Ottoman Empire soldiers killed Armenian Christians. My grandfather was a teenager as he watched people in his village shot. Armed soldiers pointed their weapons at his father and yelled, 'Convert to Islam or die!' My great-grandfather converted, at least on that day, as he stared down the barrel of a rife."

Perhaps if the world puts more pressure on Turkey, it will stop opening its borders to terrorist-linked Islamists who persecute Armenian Christians. Maybe they will even admit their part in the Armenian Genocide.

 

 

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Blog Entry

See the Photo that almost Got me Arrested in Turkey

posted by Lonna Lisa Williams, FullThursday, May 29th 2014 @ 5:06 PM (not yet rated)    post viewed 999 times

“The Photo that Almost Got Me Arrested in Turkey”

 

By Lonna Lisa Williams, M.A. 

Published on Digital Journal and Yahoo

 

I lived in Turkey for 2.5 years, teaching English and exploring the culture, history, and language of a country I came to love.  I even married a Turkish man and was invited into his large family.  His mother, a Muslim woman who wore the traditional “turban” (head scarf), cooked the best soup I ever tasted, mixed with fresh vegetables and spices.  I traveled around the country, doing photo essays of varied landscapes and historical places.  However, my love story was marred by violence when Turkish police, under control of Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan, tortured my husband after he was arrested for protesting rights violations.

He was released from jail, and we filed a legal complaint that we later withdrew for fear of reprisal.  Then the freedom protests began last spring, and I wrote about them for Digital Journal.  I even posted videos on Youtube.  One Sunday, as we met friends for tea in Istanbul, I watched as police attacked a group of tourists with water canon and tear gas.  As we made our way home, they attacked us also. 

For all the drama I witnessed in Turkey, it was a simple photo that made police come to my old apartment door, seeking to arrest me.  I had left Turkey just days earlier, with Omer, to take a teaching job in China.  The offensive photo was not of a military facility or a policeman.  It was of a turbaned Muslim woman, who had been my friend, freely posing at the Kocaeli Book Fair.  She later cut all ties with me, after finding out I was a Christian who wrote critical articles about the Islamist Ak Party, whom her family supported.  When she saw her photo on Digital Journal, she filed a police report. 

Although it is legal in America to take photos of people in public places, the same is not true in Turkey where more journalists are imprisoned than any other country.  In my photo, a giant banner of Ataturk waves next to a banner of Erdogan, of equal size.  The scene is symbolically framed by flagpoles like prison bars.  Erdogan seeks to erase Ataturk’s secular democratic values and replace them with his strict Islamic controls.  My photo captures his intentions.  You can see the photo here, minus the woman, whose request I have honored by removing her likeness.

Censorship will not prevail.  If people can’t have images, they will find a way to write what happened.

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Blog Entry

I Was Attacked by the Turkish Police

posted by Lonna Lisa Williams, FullThursday, May 29th 2014 @ 3:30 PM (not yet rated)    post viewed 983 times

“Teaching English Overseas:  Attacked by the Turkish Police”

By Lonna Lisa Williams

March 28, 2014

Published on Yahoo and Digital Journal

I'll never forget being attacked by the Turkish police in Istanbul. It was a lull in the Gezi Park protests against Erdogan's Islamist government. Tourists had come out on a sunny Sunday to stroll along Istiklal Street, which stretches from the Tunnel subway to Taksim Square and is surrounded by stately old buildings, foreign consulates, and modern malls. With no warning, police opened fire on the peaceful tourists, using the water cannon from an attack vehicle while a battalion in metallic suits swept into the crowd behind see-through shields. Others fired tear gas canisters from hand-held guns.

My Turkish husband Omer and I had come to Taksim to meet friends for tea, and we stood up and shouted as we watched the scene below our cafe. I videoed it with my small camera, from my perch in the cafe’s second-storey window seat. Other customers leaned out windows and then shut them against the pepper spray. After a few minutes, the attack vehicle made its way down Istiklal Street, and Omer and I followed side streets toward home.

When the Gezi Park protests first started in the spring of 2013, it seemed fun to witness them first-hand, caught up in a joyful expression of freedom as working-class Turks joined students and professionals.  Men mingled with women, some carrying children who held flags, all lifting their voices against tyranny. But as I walked down graffiti-labeled streets that summer afternoon and watched a teenager break up rocks to hurl at police, I thought it was not much fun to witness people so desperate to resist their government's controls that they resorted to violence. I saw a girl, wearing a black helmet and gas mask, uneasily clasp the arm of her boyfriend who carried a "Her Yer Taksim" ("Everywhere is Taksim") protest sign. I saw an older man, who looked like a university professor, snap photos with his cell phone as a well-outfitted professional news team from Germany hung back near a building.

I didn't look like a journalist, whom the Turkish police were especially targeting. I thought Omer and I would safely pass as we entered Istiklal Street again. Suddenly, booms echoed on the high buildings around us as the police vehicle attacked again. Tourists and the protesters who had gathered around them fled a wave of pepper spray. Police boots hammered over cobblestones, and I could almost feel them at my back. The manager of a small hotel motioned for Omer and me to enter his lobby. He offered us water to wash our faces and hands. Even though I did not get directly hit with the pepper spray, it hung in the air as thick as smoke, and I was sick for days after breathing it.

I still have nightmares filled with smoke and booming echoes, alone here in my Chinese apartment where I fled just before Turkish police came to arrest me for a photo I’d published. Omer, unwanted in China because he is Turkish, is back in Istanbul. I wonder if we will ever share neutral land.

 

 

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Blog Entry

Walk with Me in Turkey

posted by Lonna Lisa Williams, FullThursday, May 29th 2014 @ 3:25 PM (not yet rated)    post viewed 897 times

Walk with me through ancient temples, churches, castles, mosques, and palaces of Turkey where I spent 2.5 years teaching English and exploring that beautiful country.  I learned the language and culture and even married into a Turkish family.  Stand with me at the spot where key battles defended the land from invaders and where Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was buried.  See archeology opportunities with Greek and Roman columns and tunnels directly at your feet.  Tour Istanbul, a city built on 7 hills and divided by a waterway that separates Europe from Asia.  Get caught in the rain by the Black Sea, feast on shish kabob in Kocaeli, dance the horon at a Turkish wedding, explore Kar Tepe’s mountain forest, and swim in the Mediterranean Sea.  With my vivid photos and stories, you’ll feel as though you walked in Turkey with me. 

Find my book here:  

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ILG7486

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