WORLDVIEW: SUDAN DETAINS 14 EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS IN LATEST CRACKDOWN

11th July, 2016

BosNewsLife

Christians in Sudan have urged people to prayer amid concerns about 14 evangelical leaders and other Christians who were detained in Bahri, the country's third largest city, sources told BosNewsLife.

The Christians, all members of Bahri's 'Evangelical Church' congregation, were taken into police custody Thursday, 7th July, amid a wider crackdown on minority Christians in the African nation.

"The persecution of Christians in Sudan is systematic and more reminiscent of a policy of ethnic cleansing."

- Open Doors

"Even though the prosecutor ordered their release in the evening, as of the afternoon of July 8, they were still being held," said advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC), which closely follows the case. "So far the police have refused to release them."

The troubles after a government-backed committee sold a school run by the Evangelical Church to businessmen. "On July 7 the businessmen came to the compound to take over the building. When church leaders objected that the sale was illegal the police came and arrested 11 church members, including several leaders," MEC said.

They were briefly released after intervention by the church's lawyer, but Christians were detained again later in the day, MEC added. "When they returned to the church compound they discovered they had been locked out of the school building. After some church members broke the lock to gain entry to the school the police came a second time and detained 17 people, including six church members who had been detained earlier that day."

Among those detained were three members of what the church views as an "illegal" government-appointed committee.

"They were released shortly after, leaving 14 church members still in detention," MEC told BosNewsLife.

The detentions come amid previous reported attempts by the Islamic government to intervene in church affairs.

"In March 2013 the church discovered that members of a committee responsible for church property had acted fraudulently, and consequently the church fired them. Some of the committee members complained to the government," MEC said. "Seeing an opportunity to divide the church, the government 're-instated' the committee members, even though the government has no authority to appoint committees in the church."

The Evangelical Church refused to recognise the government-backed committee and took the government to court. In a surprise move in the autocratically-ruled country, an administrative court ruled in August last year in the church's favour and declared the committee illegal.

Yet the pressure continued, according to Christians familiar with the situation. "Since 2013 this government-appointed 'committee' has been selling parts of the Evangelical Church compound to businessmen connected with the government," MEC said.

Rights activists say the church saw numerous incidents where businessmen came to the church compound backed by police, destroying parts of the complex. "At different times church members who objected were arrested. This continued even after the court declared the 'committee' illegal," MEC explained.

In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife, Christians in Sudan said they requested that "those detained will know the peace and presence of Jesus" and that "they will be treated with dignity, and will be released soon." MEC said Christians also asked for prayer that "church leaders will have wisdom in their dealings with the authorities, and that the court ruling in favour of the church will be implemented" and that "all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him."

This is no isolated incident. "The persecution of Christians in Sudan is systematic and more reminiscent of a policy of ethnic cleansing," said advocacy and aid group Open Doors in a recent assessment. "Historically, Islam is deeply embedded in Sudan’s society."

Sudan is among the few African countries that has consistently been on the group's annual World Watch List of 50 countries where it claims Christians face the worst persecution. "The country’s rank on the list has been oscillating mostly between the top 10 and the top 20 countries."

Sudan has been designated a “Country of Particular Concern” by the US State Department since 1999.

"Furthermore, for the past decades there has been no rule of law in Sudan; press and media laws have been restrictive, and freedom of expression and religion has been highly curtailed," Open Doors noted.

"The ethnic-cultural landscape is very diverse and complicated: Arab versus black, Muslim versus Christian." The group said that the secession of South Sudan did not solve these problems. "This is particularly true for black Africans, as a significant number are Christian and still living in the country."

The Government of Sudan is strictly implementing the policy of one religion, one culture and one language, according to church observers.

 

FOR PREVIOUS ISSUES OF WORLDVIEW:

4th July, 2016

CHRISTIANS AND OTHER MINORITIES BEING KILLED FOR ORGANS IN CHINA, SAY REPORTS

House church Christians and other prisoners of conscience are being targeted and killed in a massive gruesome trade in human organs in China, according to new reports released this week.

     Three researchers - prominent human rights lawyer David Matas, former Canadian member of parliament and government minister David Kilgour, and journalist Ethan Gutmann - say public records of 712 hospitals in China carrying out liver and kidney transplants show that the scale of organ harvesting is far bigger than previously imagined.

     All three, who previously published respected reports on the topic, conclude that between 60,000 to 100,000 organs are transplanted each year in Chinese hospitals.

     "The numbers and the extraordinarily short waiting times for transplant patients suggest that prisoners of conscience, from the spiritual movement Falun Gong as well as Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans, and house church Christians, may be the primary victims," said Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the British Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

29th June 2016

GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS UPON AND SOCIAL HOSTILITIES TOWARD RELIGION DOWN SLIGHTLY IN 2014, SAYS LATEST PEW SURVEY

Government restrictions upon and social hostilities involving religion decreased slightly from 2013 to 2014, according to figures from the Pew Research Center's latest annual study on global restrictions on religion.

     The study, the seventh of its kind by the US-based centre, found that of 198 countries, almost a quarter – 24 per cent - had high or very high levels of government restrictions in place on religious activities in 2014, down slightly from 28 per cent the previous year. A similar decline was seen in the proportion of countries which had high or very high social hostilities toward religion – down from 27 per cent to 23 per cent.

     The findings make 2014 the second year in a row in which hostilities have shown a decline following five years of increases in both government and social hostilities.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

21st June 2016

EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT FIGHTS EFFORTS TO REPEAL CONTROVERSIAL 'BLASPHEMY LAW'

Parliamentary efforts in Egypt to repeal the country’s equivalent of a “blasphemy law” are facing stiff opposition from the Ministry of Justice.

    The ministry’s representative to parliament, Chancellor Ayman Rafah, this month told the People’s Assembly that the administration opposed efforts to eliminate the constitution’s Article 98F, which criminalises any expression “for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity.”
      The three “heavenly religions” in Egypt are Islam, Judaism and Christianity, but the law is almost always used against those who criticise Islam. Conviction carries a sentence of six months to five years in prison and a fine of 500 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($US55 to $US110).

     Rafah told the People’s Assembly on 12th June that dropping Article 98F would violate a constitutional prohibition against inciting hatred against people of a revealed religion, a crime “punished by the law.” The Egyptian government considers irreverent speech a form of incitement.
      Rafah also said that limits needed to be placed on some sorts of expression. A spokesman for the ministry later told media that repealing the article would be “unreasonable.”

     Morning Star News reports on resistance to moves to repeal what is the equivalent of a blasphemy law in Egypt...  |  more... |

 

14th June 2016

ESSAY: PERSECUTED RIGHTS ADVOCATES IN VIETNAM SEEK HELP FROM WORLD'S DEMOCRACIES

In 2006, the US State Department removed Vietnam from its list of countries of particular concern, citing the release of religious prisoners and the easing of religious restrictions. Two months later, the United States granted Vietnam permanent normal trade status, paving the way for Vietnam to join the World Trade Organization in January 2007.

    As soon as the regime had secured its goals, however, it unleashed a crack-down. Among the first to be arrested was internationally acclaimed human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate Nguyen Van Dai, a Protestant Christian.

     Arrested on 6th March, 2007, and deemed guilty of violating Article 88 of the criminal code - “conducting propaganda against the state” - Nguyen Van Dai spent the next four years in prison in Hanoi (to March 2011) followed by four years house arrest (to March 2015).

     ELIZABETH KENDAL, in an article first published by Morning Star News, argues that the protection of religious freedoms is critical advancing human rights, humanitarian work and democracy in Vietnam...  |  more... |

 

6th June 2016

MALAYSIAN BILL AMENDMENT TO TIGHTEN SHARIA PUNISHMENTS ALARMS NON-MUSLIMS

On the last day of Malaysia’s latest session of Parliament, a member of the ruling coalition, UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), had a bill amendment approved which has provoked an outcry in the country.

     That’s because it aims to tighten the implementation of Sharia; and critics claim it intends to bring in “hudud” punishments, such as lashes for adultery and hand amputation for theft. (The term 'hudud' refers to punishments decreed by God.)

     The president of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), Abdul Hadi Awang (centre), proposed the bill.

     Non-Muslim Malaysians (including many Chinese and Indians) reacted strongly, saying the Prime Minister is under pressure from the Islamist party, which first proposed the bill, due to up-coming by-elections, and that while sharia should only apply to Muslims, they are afraid the measure was snuck in at the last minute, with intent for it to eventually apply country-wide.

     World Watch Monitor reports...  |  more... |

 

30th May, 2016

MUSLIM MOB ASSAULT ELDERLY CHRISTIAN WOMAN; DESTROY HOMES IN EGYPT

Egyptian police have detained six men after an armed mob stripped an elderly Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets in an attack in which seven Christian homes were also looted and torched, security and church officials say.

     Last week's outbreak of sectarian violence in Minya province village of Karma, south of Cairo, began 20th May, after public accusations that the elderly woman’s son had an affair with a Muslim woman - a taboo in conservative Egypt, the local Orthodox Coptic Church said.

     Coptic Bishop Anba Makarios, general bishop of the Diocese of Minya, said in a statement that some 300 armed men began attacking Christians in the village, looting and setting fire to seven homes and causing nearly $US40,000 worth of damage.

     He added that the 70-year-old woman was dragged out of her home by the mob who beat her and insulted her before they stripped her off her clothes and forced her to walk through the streets as they chanted Allahu Akbar, or “Allah is great".

     BosNewsLife reports...  |  more... |

 

24th May, 2016

ISLAMIST TENSIONS CONTINUE IN TANZANIA

The recent attack on a mosque in Mwanza, northern Tanzania, has highlighted the area as one under growing pressure from political Islam.

    More than three years have passed since the murder of a Tanzanian pastor, killed when rioting Muslims protested against Christians working as butchers. Tanzania is believed to have equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, although no official census figures are available. As Muslims are only permitted to eat meat that has been ritually slaughtered, while almost all Christians have no such restraints, it is typically considered acceptable for only Muslims to work in the trade, even though there is no official legislation to enforce this.

     On 11th February, 2013, after Christians in the north-western city of Buseresere had arranged for a non-Muslim butcher to prepare meat for a Christian funeral reception, Mathayo Kachila, the pastor of the local Assemblies of God church, was hacked to death by rioters.

     For six years before, tension had been building between Muslims and Christians in Buseresere over the issue of animal slaughter. The local government had forbidden non-Muslims from working as butchers, but Christians in the Geita district had begun to do so.

    World Watch Monitor reports that tensions remain between Christians and Muslims in Tanzania in the aftermath of the murder of a pastor more than three years ago...  |  more... |

 

16th May, 2016

RELIGIOUS-DRIVEN HOSTILITY TO CHRISTIANS FOLLOWS THEM TO GERMAN REFUGEE CENTRES

Christian refugees in Germany are facing religiously motivated abuse and violent attacks from Muslim refugees and security officials, according to a report by Christian charity Open Doors.

     Of 231 refugees Open Doors interviewed between February and April, 204 said they had experienced “religiously motivated persecution” – whether through verbal insults, sexual or physical assault, or death threats.

     Of those interviewed, 69 per cent were Iranians, while 13 per cent came from Afghanistan and 5 per cent from Syria. Eighty-six per cent were former Muslims who had converted to Christianity, most of them in their home country.

     The interviews were conducted by Open Doors staff in Germany, which also issued written surveys to Christian refugees in their native language. The organisation said the reports of harassment elicited by the surveys represent “just the tip of the iceberg”.

    World Watch Monitor reports on the findings of a new study out of Germany showing Christian refugees in the country are still facing persecution...  |  more... |

 

9th May, 2016

BILL IN NIGERIA'S KADUNA STATE WOULD CRIMINALISE STREET EVANGELISM, "OFFENSIVE" PREACHING, SAY CLERGY

Street evangelists would be fined and “offensive” preaching at church services would send pastors to jail for up to two years under legislation proposed by the Muslim governor of Kaduna state, church leaders said.
      As discussion of the legislation heated up in the past month, Christian leaders voiced alarm over the bill Governor Nasir El-Rufai sent to the state assembly last October, which would also require clergy to obtain a preaching permit renewable every year. Church leaders said the Religious Regulation Bill, which would apply to all religions including Islam, is a ploy to stifle and persecute Christians under the guise of quelling extremists and charlatans.

     “The proposed law is in contravention of the Nigerian Constitution and shall inhibit the preaching of the Gospel when it becomes operational,” Rev George Dodo, chairman of the Kaduna State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Roman Catholic bishop of Zaria Diocese, told Morning Star News. “We have reservations over the bill and believe that it will curtail religious freedom of the people, particularly, Christians in Kaduna state.”

    Morning Star News reports on fears a proposed new law in one Nigerian state could have significant ramifications for the preaching of the Gospel...  |  more... |

 

2nd May, 2016

ALGERIAN CHURCHES STILL FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM OF WORSHIP

Churches in Algeria are facing intimidation and harassment, despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing freedom of worship in the country.
      On Sunday 24th April, 2016, a church in Mâatkas, in the north-eastern province of Kabylie, was ordered to cease all religious activities on the grounds that it was in breach of a 2006 law which regulates non-Muslim worship.

     The authorities have threatened to commence legal proceedings against the church if Christian worship continues in the building currently being used by the church.

     The notice provides no further detail about the alleged infringement, nor any timeframe within which steps should be taken to ensure compliance with the law.

     The church in Mâatkas is affiliated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (known as EPA, its French acronym), which is legally registered. In response to the notice, the president of the EPA, Rev Mahmoud Haddad, said it was a violation of the freedom of worship enshrined in the constitution.

    The World Watch Monitor reports on the ongoing fight of Christians to be able to freely worship in Algeria...  |  more... |

 

26th April, 2016

RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN TURKEY INCREASINGLY VULNERABLE TO GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS AND GROWING SOCIAL HOSTILITIES, SAYS REPORT

Religious minorities in Turkey are “increasingly vulnerable" to restrictive government legislation and growing social hostilities, according to a new report from religious freedom advocacy, Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

     The report released last week says the Turkish state has used a variety of ways to “propagate the view among wider society that to be Turkish is to be Sunni Muslim”.

     “The implicit suggestion is that religious minorities, or the non-religious, are not truly Turkish,” it says, noting that this has contributed to rising levels of hate speech that incites violence towards those who are not Sunni Muslim.

     The report, which notes that the safety of Turkey’s religious and ethnic minorities is “precarious” due in part to the country’s porous borders which allow the passage of radical Islamists from Syria and Iraq, says these have included a number of acts of vandalism in and around churches and other places of worship such as synagogues.

    DAVID ADAMS writes about a new Christian Solidarity Worldwide report showing a deteriorating situation for religious freedom in Turkey...  |  more... |

 

18th April, 2016

POPE SAYS SYRIAN CHRISTIAN WOMAN KILLED FOR HER FAITH IN CHRIST

Pope Francis has called a Christian Syrian woman "a martyr" after hearing she was killed by Islamic militants for refusing to deny her faith in Jesus Christ.

     The leader of the world's one billion Catholics told the faithful in St Peter's Square that he spoke with the young woman's bereaved husband during his visit on Saturday to the Greek island of Lesbos where he also visited refugees held in an overcrowded detention centre.

     "He is Muslim, and he told me that he married a Christian girl," the pope said on Sunday. "They loved each other and respected each other. But unfortunately the young woman's throat was slashed by terrorists because she didn't want to deny Christ and abandon her faith." He added: “She is a martyr!”

     Thousands of Christians have been driven out of their homes in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State group and other Islamic militants. Many believers have been kidnapped and killed for their faith.

    BosNewsLife reports on Pope Francis' visit last weekend to the frontline of Europe's migration crisis...  |  more... |

 

14th April, 2016

ERITREAN CHURCH LEADERS STILL IN JAIL 12 YEARS LATER

Although the tiny East African nation of Eritrea has a population of just six million, it is one of the leading sources of refugees in Europe. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is a lack of religious freedom.

     The Eritrean government outlawed worship outside of Islam and the Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic Church in 2002, driving all other Christian churches underground as they faced varying degrees of restrictions and attacks. Since then, thousands of Christians have been arrested and incarcerated without benefitting from a legal process. Among them are a number of prominent church leaders arrested in 2004, who remain incarcerated today, almost 12 years later. World Watch Monitor spoke with the family of one of these prisoners.

     Haile Naigzhi, leader of Eritrea’s Full Gospel Church, was arrested during the early hours of 23rd May, 2004. He was taken from his home to police station number one in Asmara, then moved to Wongel Mermera – a dungeon-like prison in Asmara, where he still resides, alongside at least five other prominent church leaders. They have little hope of release any time soon.

    The World Watch Monitor tells the story of one imprisoned pastor amid a backdrop of restrictions on religious freedom in Eritrea...  |  more... |

 

4th April, 2016

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC'S NEW PRESIDENT BRINGS HOPE BUT HUNGER THREATENS 'NEW START'

Last week's inauguration of a new president in the Central African Republic (CAR) brings hope for a new beginning, and a brighter future for the war-torn country.

     After three years of political crisis, Faustin Touadéra beat Anicet Dologuélé in elections on 14th February, securing about 63 per cent of the votes.

     But the new government faces many challenges, such as reconciliation of the nation, helping it to recover from its continuing humanitarian emergency, and a now-serious threat of famine. The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that at least half the population (2.5 million people) is now facing hunger. Indeed, it says the number of people battling hunger has doubled from 2015, as CAR’s overall crop production in 2015 remained 54 per cent below the pre-crisis average.
      WFP says unless there is serious intervention, the crisis will deteriorate, but that it has secured only about half the money it needs until the end of July.

    The World Watch Monitor reports on the many challenges facing the Central African Republic's newly inaugurated president...  |  more... |

 

29th March, 2016

CHRISTIAN WOMEN FACE DOUBLE VULNERABILITY DUE TO GENDER AND RELIGION

Women were close witnesses of the violence meted out to Jesus Christ during His Passion and crucifixion, which Western Christians commemorated last weekend. They were also among the first to face persecution by the Roman authorities, and were frequently among the famous early church martyrs.

     Today, women followers of Christ still disproportionately witness and experience violence, and face a double vulnerability due to their faith and gender, an international conference has heard.

     The conference’s findings come in the context of a Pew Research Center study published last week which has found that women, especially among Christians around the world are, generally, more devout than men when standard measures of religious commitment are considered. Christian women are more likely to attend weekly religious services, be involved in daily prayer and consider religion important in their lives at higher rates than men, according to the study’s findings.

     (Overall, 83 per cent of women around the world identify with a faith group while 80 per cent of men do so. The study used census data, surveys and population registers from recent years in analysing religious practices.)

     "However, increasing numbers of women face a double blow today - violent attacks against them because of their Christian faith, and because they are women," said the conference organiser ‘Kate Ward’ (whose identity is being protected).

    JULIA BICKNELL, of World Watch Monitor, reports...  |  more... |

 

21st March, 2016

CHINA CRACKS DOWN ON MORE OFFICIAL CHURCH LEADERS, RELIGIOUS RIGHTS ATTORNEYS

China’s crack-down on state-approved churches continued last month with a harsh sentence given to a pastor of an official church in Zhejiang Province after he criticised authorities’ demolition of church crosses.
      Pastor Bao Guohua of Holy Love Christian Church in Jinhua received a sentence of 14 years in prison, and his wife Xing Wenxiang 12 years, after they were convicted of “corruption, financial crimes and gathering people to disturb social order,” according to The New York Times, citing the 26th February Zhejiang Daily, the province’s official newspaper. Their son, Bao Chenxing, was handed a three year prison sentence.

     The three were arrested last August after they publicly criticised the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) policy of demolishing crosses on churches in Zhejiang; area Christians believe they are being persecuted for their protests. The court also reportedly ordered 600,000 renminbi ($US92,000) be confiscated from Bao, and that he pay a fine of $15,300; confiscation of $92,000 from his wife, and a fine of nearly $14,000, were also ordered.

    Morning Star News reports...  |  more... |

 

15th March, 2016

60 MILLION DOMESTIC WORKERS WITHOUT SOCIAL SECURITY COVERAGE, SAYS ILO REPORT

Some 60 million - 90 per cent - of the world's 67 million domestic workers don't have access to any kind of social security coverage, according to a new study from the International Labour Office.

     The ILO point out that women make up some 80 per cent of the world's domestic workers who are concentrated in developing countries with 68 per cent found in Asia and Latin America.

     But the data did reveal that social protections for domestic workers are also not available in some industrialised countries such as Italy where 60 percent of domestic workers are not registered or France and Spain where 30 per cent of domestic workers are excluded from social security coverage.

     It also shows that migrant domestic workers - estimated to number 11.5 million worldwide - often face even greater discrimination with about 14 per cent of countries where social security security systems do provide some form of coverage for domestic workers not extending the same rights to migrant domestic workers.

    DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

7th March, 2016

HUNDREDS KILLED IN ATTACKS IN NIGERIA

Several days of attacks in February’s final days killed hundreds of people and sent thousands fleeting from largely Christian areas of Nigeria’s farming belt.

     The armed attacks in and around Agatu, in the central Nigerian state of Benue, had features long familiar to Nigerians: ethnic Fulani cattle herders, largely Muslim, moving in on farmers, largely Christian. The long-running land conflict frequently is framed in economic terms, but it also has distinctive religious contours. Survivors quoted by Christian-rights advocates said the attackers specifically targeted Christians and churches and spared Muslims and mosques.

     The violence broke out on 23rd February and continued across several villages for several days, culminating on 29th February. in what witnesses told Nigerian news media was a massacre in Agatu. The killings sparked protests in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. A week after the attacks began, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered an investigation.
      A complete assessment of the number of dead and displaced is not available. Early social-media postings by Signal, a news startup in Abuja, reported “scores” dead. An aide to Benue Governor Samuel Ortom told Agence France-Presse that “hundreds of lives were lost".

    ILLIA DJADI, of World Watch Monitor, reports...  |  more... |

 

29th February, 2016

CALAIS 'JUNGLE' CAMP DEMOLITION BEGINS

French authorities have been told that they can demolish the southern part of the Calais migrant camp known as the “Jungle”. Calais is one of the ports bordering the English Channel, where migrants gather, hoping to cross the 33 kilometres to the UK.

     A decision on the demolition was postponed on 23rd February, but a judge on 25th February decreed that the demolition can begin. The demolition will affect between 1,000 and 3,000 people from a range of different countries, many of whom fled war and persecution to reach France and are intent on eventually settling in Britain.

     Local authorities want to move migrants either into more hygienic quarters within converted shipping containers, or to refugee centres across France. However, charities have asked for assurances that the more than 300 unaccompanied children in the camp will be protected. No special provision had been made for them, and their new school, built just three weeks ago, is in the area scheduled for demolition. However, the court has ruled that common social areas, such as schools, churches and mosques, must not be demolished.

    World Watch Monitor reports...  |  more... |

 

22nd February, 2016

PAKISTANI TEEN KILLED IN "TERROR" CAMPAIGN AGAINST WOMEN

Rights activists say Christian women and girls in Pakistan are facing a wave of terror that has already claimed at least one life and injured two others this year alone.

     The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) says the terror has included a 13th January deadly incident in the city of Lahore where three young Christian girls, identified as Kiran, 17, Shamroza, 18, and Sumble, 20, were approached at night while walking home by four allegedly drunk Muslim men in a car.

     Because the girls refused their sexual advances the men became enraged to the point that the driver targeted them with the car, according to investigators. Kiran died after she landed on the hood of the car, which had increased in speed before coming to an abrupt halt. Christians said the teen was catapulted through the air before falling to the ground.

     The two other women received severe injuries and broken bones, rights activists said.

    BosNewsLife reports...  |  more... |

 

15th February, 2016

POPE FRANCIS AND RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCH KIRILL MAKE HISTORY AT MEETING IN CUBA

The heads of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches met for the first time in Cuba late last week in an historic coming together which was decades in the making.

     Pope Francis, 79, met with Patriarch Kirill, 69, at the Havana airport on Friday, kissing each other and then sitting down together for a couple of hours in what represented the first meeting between the leaders of the two churches since the Great Schism of the Eastern and Western churches 1,000 years ago.

     The two leaders issued a joint statement at the end of the meeting in which they spoke of the "joy" they felt at the meeting but also called for greater international action to tackle the persecution of Christians around the world.

     "We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East..." they said in the statement.

    DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

8th February, 2016

OPINION: SHOULD BRITAIN STICK WITH THE EU?

"It is the heart always that sees before the head can see," wrote Thomas Carlyle.

     I don’t know how Thomas Carlyle, a gifted social commentator, would have voted in the forthcoming British referendum on EU membership. Perhaps, being a Scot, he might immediately have made up his mind to stay.

     If so, he would have been in the minority among UK voters, according to a new poll released by YouGov. It suggests that 45 per cent of people will vote to leave the EU, compared with 36 per cent who favour remaining.

     If the ‘don’t knows’ in the survey are excluded, a full 56 per cent favour waving goodbye to the EU. This despite Prime Minister Cameron’s assurances that he can wrest a better deal for Britain from the hands of the EU.

     Perhaps closer to the referendum - a date has not yet been fixed - people will opt to stay with what they know, after all, rather than going it alone. But recent problems within the Eurozone and terribly mixed messages about migration will add new levels of uncertainty about whether the status quo is sustainable anyway.

     For my part, on the question of whether Britian should remain in the EU, the heart says a resounding ‘yes’, but the mind’s not so sure.

Mal Fletcher

Writing from London, MAL FLETCHER looks at arguments for and against the UK leaving the EU...  |  more... |

 

 

2nd February, 2016

FIERCE BATTLES IN SOUTH-EAST TURKEY HEDGE IN CHRISTIANS

One of the oldest churches in the world sustained damage last week in the intensified fighting between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists.

     Rocket-propelled grenades destroyed a portion of the wall surrounding the Virgin Mary Church in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on 28th January . The Syriac Orthodox church is 1,700 years old.

     Fr Yusuf Akbulut, the priest of the church, was sheltered with his family at his home located on church grounds during the attack.
     Violence has engulfed Diyarbakir's Sur district, the location of the church, since early December. The government issued an evacuation order on 26th January due to pitched street battles between armed militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish forces.

     World Watch Monitor reports on concerns for Turkey's Christians amid renewed fighting in the country...  |  more... |

 

29th January, 2016

MINORITIES FEAR BACKLASH OVER SRI LANKA'S PROPOSED NEW CONSTITUTION

Sri Lanka’s minority religious groups are concerned after Buddhist hardliners reacted angrily to the President’s proposed new constitution.

     President Maithripala Sirisena’s new constitution, proposed on 9th January, would decentralise power in a bid to prevent ethnic tensions in the country, but Buddhist hardliners say it contains provisions that regulate the power of the Buddhist clergy. The Justice and Buddha Sasana Minister, Wijeyasayadasa Rajapashe, denied this claim, saying they are intended only to enable the government to discipline monks who break the law.

     Others who oppose the change say that it is an attempt by the government to be more “likeable” to Western nations.

     Buddhism currently enjoys “the foremost place” in the Sri Lankan constitution. Article 9 decrees that “Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana (message)”.

     World Watch Monitor reports on concerns among minority groups - including Christians - over Sri Lanka's proposed new constitution...  |  more... |

 

18th January, 2016

NEW REPORT SHOWS "DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES" OF LOSS OF LAND AND AUTONOMY OF TRIBAL PEOPLES

A HIV 'epidemic' is decimating the Warao tribe of Venezuela a while the suicide rate of the Guarani Kaiowá people of Brazil is the highest in the world. Such are some of the grim findings of Survival International's latest report, Progress Can Kill.

     The report, released earlier this month, exposes what the tribal peoples' rights organisation calls the "devastating consequences of loss of land and autonomy" of tribal peoples.

     Its findings show that the rate of self-inflicted deaths among the Guarani Kaiowá people in southern Brazil is 34 times the country's national average while suicide rates among Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans in Alaska also remain "exceptionally high".

     Meanwhile, the report shows that since the first cases, brought to the tribe through contact with illegal miners, were seen in 2007, a particularly aggressive strain of HIV is "spreading fast" among Warao communities in eastern Venezuela with one study of eight communities showing 10 per cent of people there had contracted the virus. This equates to a rate 20 times that of Venezuelan society more broadly and double that of sub-Saharan Africa.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on a new document highlighting the plight of tribal peoples from Survival International...  |  more... |

 

11th January, 2016

ANALYSIS: DARE EGYPT'S NEW PARLIAMENT AMEND OR EVEN ABOLISH BLASPHEMY LAW?

Egypt’s Secular Party has called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to support legislation which cancels the blasphemy law, because, in the words of lawyer Hamdi al-Assyouti, it has “become a tool in the hands of extremists against minorities, thinkers, and the creative impulse”. And, in his experience as a defence lawyer, 90 per cent of charges are filed against Christians. The first session of Egypt’s new parliament opened on 10th January.

     “There has been a case each month,” he said at the launch of his new book, Blasphemy in Egypt. “If I have gotten any detail wrong, let me be judged accordingly, but everything is taken from judicial rulings.”

     The research confirms the Egyptian lawyer’s claim. World Watch Monitor readers might have read the cases of Gamal Abdou, Gad Younan, and Bishoy Garas, each a Christian who has been tried for insulting Islam. But Muslims who question traditional interpretations of Islam are also targeted, as seen in the recent one-year prison sentence given to Islam al-Beheiry.

     JAYSON CASPER, of World Watch Monitor, speaks to lawyer Hamdi al-Assyouti about the case for change with regard to Egypt's blasphemy law...  |  more... |

 

29th December, 2015

TEXTBOOKS IN TURKEY IMPROVED BUT STILL BIASED AGAINST NON-ISLAMIC FAITHS, SAYS STUDY

Newly revised textbooks for schoolchildren’s mandatory religion classes in Turkey are markedly improved but still have notable shortcomings, according to a study by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

     The textbooks do not adequately address Christianity and other non-Islamic religions, according to USCIRF.

     “The current books are a clear improvement from previous ones,” according to the study. “There are no derogatory statements about non-Sunni Muslim religions, and substantial new sections on Alevi traditions are included. There are noteworthy passages on religion and science, religion and rationality, being a good citizen, religious freedom, and the origins of differences in Islamic thought.”

     Despite the improvements to the texts, however, several problems remain, according to the study, Compulsory Religious Education in Turkey, A Survey and Assessment of Textbooks, released on 17th December. The textbooks’ “major weakness” is that they are written solely from an Islamic worldview, and consequently some information is misleading or biased.

     Morning Star News reports...  |  more... |

 

21st December, 2015

CHRISTIAN WOMEN IN BAGHDAD FACE INTIMIDATION TO VEIL

The few Christians still holding out in Baghdad have found themselves at the receiving end of another barrage of intimidation.

     Posters appeared on the morning of 13th December - a Sunday - near Christian places of worship with a message to Christian women to cover up, the London-based online news Al-Araby al-Jadeed said.

     The Qatari-owned media, which says it aims to counter sectarian narratives, reported the messages were the work of the government-sanctioned “People’s Mobilisation” Shiite militias.

     Posters of a veiled Virgin Mary appeared around the mainly Shia neighbourhoods of Karada, Kadhimiya, Zayouna and Ghadir - in areas where Christians still form a noticeable minority.

     Addressed to “honourable Christian” women, they said “The Virgin Mary was veiled, for such has been the way of the prophets” and included a call to “pause and think deeply".

     World Watch Monitor reports...  |  more... |

 

14th December, 2015

EGYPTIAN ARMY "SUICIDES" RAISE SPECTRE OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN THE MILITARY

In a daze, Nataay Boushra made his way out of the morgue and into a hallway of the army hospital in Cairo, Egypt.

     Lost in grief, he walked through the hallways of the medical facility; past nurses, past doctors and past groups of young soldiers talking to each other, but he noticed nothing. His son was dead.

     Bishoy. He kept repeating his son’s name in his mind like an incantation, willing him to come back to life. But his body, stripped of its soul, lay covered by a sheet on a drawer in a cadaver refrigerator. For Boushra, the pain was beyond comprehension.

     “This kind of sadness,” he said 10 days later, in tears. “It is worse than death. If we die in Christ, we are free, but to live in this grief – it is agony.”

     On the morning of 20th November, Boushra was notified that his son, Private First Class Bishoy Nataay Boushra, a second-year conscript soldier in the Egyptian Army, was dead. He was 21. Word of his son’s death was painful enough, but it was compounded when military officials told him how he had died: “Suicide.”

     Morning Star News reports...  |  more... |

 

7th December, 2015

ESSAY: TERRORISM NOW BIGGEST THREAT TO CHRISTIANS, "DEEPLY TROUBLING" REPORT WARNS

Christians will find little comfort in the US State Department’s recently released International Religious Freedom Report. It confirms what many Christians already knew: The new phenomenon of non-state terrorism has supplanted oppression by government to become the main threat to religious freedom.

     And conditions are getting worse, suggests US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David N Saperstein. “The single greatest challenge to religious freedom worldwide, or certainly the single greatest emerging challenge...is the abhorrent acts of terror committed by those who falsely claim the mantle of religion to justify their wanton destruction.”

     Speaking to journalists in Washington, DC, about the new report, he singled out the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria for particular condemnation, along with Boko Haram militants in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

    MARTIN ROTH, of BosNewsLife, gives some insights into the recently released US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report...  |  more... |

 

1st December, 2015

CHRISTIAN REFUGEES FACE INCREASED OBSTACLES FOLLOWING TERROR ATTACKS

With more than a 100 people killed in France's worst terror attacks since World War II, thousands of Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq face an uncertain future, rights activists say.

     Aid workers have expressed concern about a developing humanitarian crisis after most nations along Europe's refugee corridor abruptly shut their borders this month to those not coming from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq.

     The move by Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia has left thousands desperately seeking a better life in the continent stranded at Balkan border crossings, including Christians.

     Hungary was the first country in the region to build anti-migration fences along its borders with Serbia and Croatia. Its rightwing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán urged the European Union to change its migration policies.

    BosNewsLife reports on the ongoing refugee crisis facing Europe...  |  more... |

 

27th November, 2015

POPE IN AFRICA SAYS CONFLICT "FEEDS ON FEAR, MISTRUST AND DESPAIR"

For his first trip to Africa, Pope Francis is visiting Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR), from 25th to 30th November.

     The three countries all have predominantly Christian populations - Kenya about 80 per cent, Uganda 85 per cent and CAR 76 per cent - and about 10 per cent or so Muslim populatuions in each of them. But they have lots of challenges. The peaceful cohabitation enjoyed by their religious communities for years has been shattered by frequent tensions due notably to religious intolerance, exacerbated by the influence of jihadist groups.

     The pope’s visit comes days after the terrorist attack at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako (Mali), which claimed 22 lives, including those of the two attackers. Two jihadist groups - the Massina Liberation Front and Al Mourabitoun – said they carried out the attack.

    Pope Francis is making his first visit to Africa this week. ILLIA DJADI, of World Watch Monitor, reports on what he is expected to encounter there...  |  more... |

 

16th November, 2015

EARLY RELEASE FOR ONE IRANIAN CHRISTIAN BUT OTHER "PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE" REMAIN BEHIND BARS

A member of one of Iran’s largest evangelical house church movements has been released from prison, 14 months earlier than expected, but many other believers remain behind bars, Iranian and other activists told BosNewsLife.

     Suroush Saraie, a member of the Church of Iran denomination, was released on 11th November from Adel Abad Prison in the southwestern city of Shiraz where he had been held on charges of “action against the national security” and “propaganda against the order of the system.”

     The Christian received a two-and-a-half year sentence on 16th July, 2013, following a raid by Iranian security services on the home of a Church of Iran pastor, Christians said. The sentence was upheld on appeal.

     Saraie was initially arrested on 12th October, 2012, along with six other Christians during a raid on a prayer meeting.

     Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) called his early release a “welcome development” in an “otherwise bleak human rights situation” for minority Christians and others since President Hassan Rouhani took power in 2013.

     BosNewsLife reports...  |  more... |

 

9th November, 2015

PERCENTAGE OF US ADULTS WHO BELIEVE IN GOD DECLINES SLIGHTLY BUT OBSERVANCE OF RELIGIOUS PRACTICES REMAINS STEADY, PEW STUDY FINDS

The number of US adults who say they believe in God has declined slightly over the past seven years but levels of observance among those who do claim a religious faith remain about the same, according to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study.

     The study, by the Pew Research Center, shows that the share of US adults who say they believe in God has declined from 92 per cent in 2007 - when the first Religious Landscape Study was conducted - to 89 per cent in 2014 while the percentage of those who say they are "absolutely certain" God exists has dropped more sharply from 71 per cent in 2007 to 63 per cent last year.

     But the percentages of those who partake in religious practices declined only slightly with 55 per cent saying they prayed daily (down from 58 per cent), 50 per cent saying they attended services at least monthly (down from 54 per cent) and 53 per cent saying they considered religion a "very important" part of their life (down from 56 per cent).

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of the Religious Landscape Study in the US...  |  more... |

 

2nd November, 2015
MAJORITY OF ENGLISH ADULTS IDENTIFY AS CHRISTIAN BUT ONLY A TENTH OF THOSE ARE "PRACTICING"

While some 57 per cent of people in England identify themselves as Christian, just nine per cent of those who do describe themselves as "practicing" - which means regularly praying, reading the Bible and attending church at least monthly, according to a landmark report.

     The survey, which was conducted by ComRes and Barna Group on behalf of a coalition of church groups including church mission organisation HOPE, the Church of England and the Evangelical Alliance, also found that 85 per cent of practising Christians feel a "responsibility" to evangelise, that two thirds said they have talked about their faith in Jesus in the month prior to the survey, and that non-Christians generally attribute more positive than negative qualities to Christians they know with 'friendly', 'caring', 'good-humoured', 'generous' and 'helpful' among top positive descriptions.

     But, in what was described as a "worrying" trend, the survey also revealed that only 39 per cent of English adults believe the Bible is God's actual or inspired world, only 60 per cent believe Jesus was a real person and only 21 per cent believe Jesus as "God in human form who lived among people in the 1st century" with the highest proportion of people - 30 per cent - describing Him as "a prophet or spiritual leader, not God".

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of a survey exploring attitudes towards Jesus and Christians in England...  |  more... |

 

27th October, 2015

ESSAY: HOW TO DEAL WITH REFUGEES' PLIGHT IN EUROPE?

Academics are calling it Europe’s “migrant” crisis, and some sympathetic media are terming it as the continent’s “refugee” crisis, both focusing on the “problem” faced by Europe. Lost in these analyses is the suffering of nearly 600,000 people, some of them Christian, who, fleeing war, persecution and oppression, have crossed the dangerous Mediterranean Sea to reach a region that is unwilling to give them asylum.

     The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that at least 3,100 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, due to bad weather conditions and overcrowded vessels of smugglers and human traffickers they used to cross the sea. And many of the tens of thousands, including women and children, who have made it to Europe are being detained without food or water. Others are being abused or exploited, as they remain without shelter or hope.

     The governments of the frontline states of Greece and Italy as well as the European Union are faced with an unusual situation, not knowing what to do with the people who are arriving not only from Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Iraq.

     FERNANDO PEREZ, in an essay written for the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission, grapples with Europe's "refugee crisis"...  |  more... |

 

19th October, 2015

CATHOLIC GROUP SAYS CHRISTIANS FACE ERADICATION IN SEVERAL NATIONS

An influential Catholic charity and advocacy group warns in a new report that Christianity may be "eradicated" in several nations as persecution of Christians has worsened over the last two years in countries such as China, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria.

     Aid to the Church in Need UK (ACN) made the warning while presenting its new report Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their faith 2013 – 2015.

     "These are countries which saw a massive deterioration of the position for Christians and indeed other minorities," said the report's co-author John Pontifex in an interview.

     "In fact the number of countries which were seen to be extreme in terms of persecution of Christians rose from six to 10 within this time frame of the last two years," he said.

     Pontifex stressed that believers around the world were forced to flee due to "religiously motivated cleansing of Christians". In Iraq alone, Christianity may "disappear within five years", he warned.

      STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports on the release of a new report looking at persecution of Christians around the world...  |  more... |

 

14th October, 2015

ISLAMIST MILITIAS THREATEN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

In Africa, it isn’t only in the west that Islamist insurgencies are posing a security threat. While attention has been focused on Nigeria’s radical Islamist group Boko Haram (whose attacks have spread to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger), a relatively unknown militant group has intensified attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), raising fears of the emergence of a new jihadist organisation in central Africa.

      The vast country of DRC borders Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to its east. A group of militants originally rooted in a rebel movement to overthrow Uganda’s government and replace it with an Islamist fundamentalist state, but forced to re-locate over the border into DRC, has been carrying out murders of local people, far from the attention of most of the world’s major media.

     Attacks including murder, looting, abduction and rape are carried out on an almost weekly basis. At least 19 people lost their lives in four separate attacks in September alone, according to local sources. On 26th September, two people were killed as their truck was ambushed near Kokola village. Five days earlier, militants fired on a truck between Eringeti and Kokola. The passengers managed to flee unharmed, but the truck was looted and set on fire.

      ILLIA DJADI reports for the World Watch Monitor...  |  more... |

 

7th October, 2015

INDIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS PROPOSE BAN ON CONVERSIONS

Two members of India’s ruling BJP party plan to introduce private member's bills - aimed at bringing in a national law against conversion from Hinduism - into the Upper and Lower Houses of India's National Parliament to force a debate over the issue.

     The MP in the Upper House, Tarun Vijay, a former journalist, represents Dehra Dun in Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal) state on the northern border of India, between Himachal Pradesh and Nepal. Himachal Pradesh has already introduced a Freedom of Religion Act, which seems harmless in name but which seeks to regulate freedom to change one’s religion.

     In an interview with The Tribune, he said the recently released Indian “religion” census had indicated that, “For the first time, the population of Hindus has been reported to be less than 80 per cent. We have to take measures to arrest the decline. It is very important to keep the Hindus in majority in the country”.

      The World Watch Monitor reports...  |  more... |

 

28th September, 2015

COURT RULING IN ARGENTINA SPURS PROSECUTION OF AGGRESSION AGAINST CHURCH

After years of inaction, federal prosecutors in Argentina are pursuing criminal charges against perpetrators of religious persecution against an evangelical church in Rio Tercero, Cordoba.

     The prosecution follows a 29th May judicial ruling that declared the long-running campaign of threats, vandalism and violence against the Pueblo Grande Baptist Church “a clear violation of the law, the National Constitution and international treaties incorporated in it that pertain to freedom of religion.”

     “The fact that the Federal Court has initiated an investigation into this case is a victory,” said the church’s defence attorney, Alejandro Zeverin. “The fact that it has gone on for so long is a disgrace.”

     Zeverin told Morning Star News that he agreed to assume the defence of the Pueblo Grande church and its pastor, Rev Marcelo Nieva, 36, because he was convinced the case represents a clear abuse of religious liberty.

     “I decided to defend this evangelical pastor and his church - even though I am a Roman Catholic myself - because we are dealing with an abuse of human rights,” he said. “This is increasing in Argentina with the rise of organised crime.”

      Morning Star News reports on moves to bring those who have persecuted the pastor of an evangelical church in Argentina to account...  |  more... |

 

21st September, 2015

NEPAL IN CRISIS FOUR MONTHS AFTER QUAKE

According to the United Nations, Nepal is still in crisis following the 25th April and 12th May 7.9 and 7.3 earthquakes. UN representative Jamie Goldrick says, “The emergency is not over yet.”

     To date, $US210 million has been received in aid and another $US222 million provided directly to the Nepal government. Just two weeks ago Nepal developed the Reconstruction Authority with funds of $US4 billion. The Nepalese Government has yet to arrange the reception of all the monies pledged by foreign governments.

     The monsoon rains which began shortly after the quake and weekly powerful aftershocks continue to slow the rebuilding efforts. On 23rd August, a powerful aftershock of 5.1, followed by two aftershocks of over 4.0 just this week, rocked already hard-hit regions. Since the big quake in April, 394 aftershocks of 4.0 and above have been recorded.

      KATHLEEN HENDRICKS, in an article first published by ASSIST News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

14th September, 2015

SIXTH INDIAN STATE SEEKS TO ADOPT ANTI-CONVERSION LAW AS ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS AND CHURCHES INCREASE

The Indian state of Maharashtra is debating the introduction of an anti-conversion law, which, if passed would make it the sixth Indian state to enact such a law, according to a report from World Watch Monitor.

     The organisation says Maharashtra would follow Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in implementing a Freedom of Religion Act, which "seems harmless in name, but in practice discourages evangelism".

     Pramod Singh, president of the Christian Legal Association of India, told WWM that the new law would affect Christians in particular "because propagation is something which is very intrinsic in the (Christian) faith."

     "This law will give the legitimacy (to persecute Christians) in the hands of the state and the non-state actors also, who would, or may be, holding the majority (intolerant) opinion," he said in an interview with the organisation.

      DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

31st August, 2015

STUDY FINDS US HAS ALMOST A THIRD OF WORLD'S MASS SHOOTERS DESPITE BEING HOME TO ONLY FIVE PER CENT OF POPULATION

The US has been the location of 31 per cent of the world's public mass shootings over the 46 years to 2012 despite only hosting five per cent of the world's population, according to new research.

     Dr Adam Lankford, professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, said his research shows that in the period between 1966 and 2012, the US had 90 "public shooters", well above the totals for next two countries on the list - the Philippines (18) and Russia (15) - combined.

     He said his research - which assessed 171 countries - provided empirical evidence of a "positive association" between firearms and public mass shootings.

     "The United States, Yemen, Switzerland, Finland, and Serbia are ranked as the top five countries in firearms owned per capita, according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, and my study found that all five are ranked in the top 15 countries in public mass shooters per capita," Dr Lankford said. "That is not a coincidence."

      DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of new research showing the US is number one in terms of the number of mass shootings around the world...  |  more... |

 

25th August, 2015

MUSLIM HERDSMEN ATTACKS IN NIGERIA'S MIDDLE BELT SHOW JIHADIST AIMS, SOURCES SAY

The killing of Christians by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s middle belt, including two slayings on 22nd August in Taraba state, is part of a jihadist drive to take over resources and displace the historically Christian population, sources said.

     The killing of brothers Ushahemba Kumashenge and Sughter Kumashenge in Kortse village, Gassol Local Government Area of Taraba state on Saturday was the latest of numerous attacks in the state and in Kaduna, Nasarawa and Benue states. Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed the brothers on their farm a few kilometers from the village, a church leader from the area told Morning Star News by telephone.

     Rev Caleb Ahema, president of the Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria (CRCN), said the slain Christians were members of the Universal Reformed Church (NKST). In the same state on 17th December, 2014, a throng of Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed five Christians, including an infant boy, and on 19th October, 2014, armed Muslim extremists killed 31 Christians in attacks on two Taraba villages.

      Morning Star News reports on ongoing violence against Christians in Nigeria's "middle belt" states...  |  more... |

 

17th August, 2015

BELARUS PASTOR FACING CRIMINAL CHARGES AS POLICE RAID CHURCHES

Christians say a pastor in southeast Belarus may face criminal charges after police raided his church venue during a Sunday worship service as part of a wider government crackdown on devoted believers in the autocratically-ruled former Soviet nation.

     A court already fined Pastor Sergei Nikolaenko in June for leading what what officials viewed as an "unapproved religious meeting" in Gomel city, BosNewsLife learned.

     Troubles began for Pastor Nikolaenko and his congregation Sunday, 31st May, when local police - accompanied by the riot squad - raided his Reformed Orthodox Transfiguration Church he was pastoring, activists said.

     Some 20 church members had reportedly gathered for worship in a rented venue within the city's central district.

     Following the raid, local authorities banned further meetings from taking place, despite the church having been previously granted government registration, reported advocacy group Forum 18.

      BosNewsLife (with STEFAN J BOS) reports on a crackdown on Christians taking place in Belarus...  |  more... |

 

10th August, 2015

NEPALI CONSTITUTION COULD RENDER CHRISTIANITY ILLEGAL

Nepali Christians fear that proposed amendments to Nepal’s new constitution, likely to come into effect on 10th August after seven years of parliamentary discussions, could eventually render all Christian activity illegal.
     Attempting to convert someone to another religion is already prohibited in Nepal, but the proposed amendments would mean that anything perceived as “evangelistic” could be punishable by law.

     Article 31(3) states that “any act to convert another person from one religion to another, or any act or behaviour to undermine or jeopardise the religion of another [will be] punishable by law”.

     Christians fear this will pave the way for an “anti-conversion clause” to be written into the penal code, which could result in prison sentences or hefty fines for “offenders”.

      The World Watch Monitor reports on fears constitutional amendments in Nepal could make Christianity illegal...  |  more... |

 

3rd August, 2015

FAITH LEADERS PLAYED A VITAL ROLE IN ADDRESSING EBOLA CRISIS BUT DELAYS IN INVOLVING THEM COST LIVES, ACCORDING TO NEW RESEARCH

Christian and Muslim leaders played an "essential role" in combatting the spread of the Ebola virus in the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Liberia but a significant delay in involving them in the response cost lives, according to new research.

     Commissioned by UK-based organisations Catholic Church agency CAFOD along with Christian Aid, Tearfund and Islamic Relief, the research found that not only did faith leaders play an important role in delivering health messages - quashing rumours about the disease and encouraging communities to accept life-saving advice from health workers - but they also undertook a crucial role in counselling survivors and challenging stigmas.

     However, the research shows that many of those interviewed believed faith leaders should have been involved far sooner than they were with one member of a taskforce in the Kenema District of Sierra Leone quoted as saying that the country "would have saved more lives and more money had religious leaders been engaged at an earlier stage of the disease outbreak".

    DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of research from the UK showing the key role faith leaders played in fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa...  |  more... |

 

27th July, 2015

ONE PERSON FORCED TO FLEE THEIR HOME EVERY SECOND BECAUSE OF DISASTERS DURING 2014, SAYS REPORT

More than 19.3 million people in 100 countries were forced to flee their homes due to disasters in 2014 - a figure which equates to one person every second, according to a report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

     The Global Estimates: People displaced by disasters report, issued by the centre - an arm of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) - last week, said 17.4 million people were forced to flee due to weather-related events, such as floods and storms, and a further 1.7 million due to geophysical hazards such as earthquakes.

     The biggest displacements of people in 2014 occurred as a result of Typhoon Rammasun and Typhoon Hagupit impacting The Philippines (2.99 million and 1.82 million people displaced respectively), the Odisha floods in India (1.07 million), and the Iquique earthquake and tsunami in Chile (972,500). Asia, home to 60 per cent of the world's population, accounted for 87 per cent of people displaced by disasters worldwide last year.

    DAVID ADAMS reports on what the latest world disaster figures reveal...  |  more... |

 

21st July, 2015

ARMED CHRISTIANS DEFENDING CHURCHES IN PAKISTAN

Christian men have formed a security team to defend churches in Pakistan after several terror attacks killed at least some 100 Christian worshipers within two years.

     The team began providing security to Shalom Presbyterian Church in the Bahar Colony area of Lahore, Pakistan's cultural capital, where suicide bombings against two churches in March killed 17 worshippers.

     It has since expanded to provide security at six more churches in neighboring areas, news reports said.

     "We are more blessed and strengthened in God day by day and we are looking forward to reach more and more churches in Lahore and other parts of the country, irrespective of the denomination," added team spokesman Waqar Peter Gill in an interview with US-based Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN).

     Christians have also asked for protection in areas such as Peshawar, the main town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which was rocked by a twin suicide bombing in September 2013, killing at least 78 people during a church service.

    BosNewsLife reports on how, following a series of deadly attacks, churches in Pakistan are looking to their defence...  |  more... |

 

13th July, 2015

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER CHASED FROM COMMEMORATION CEREMONY AS WORLD MOURNS VICTIMS OF SREBRENICA MASSACRE ON 20TH ANNIVERSARY

An angry crowd on Saturday chased Serbia’s Prime Minister from a ceremony in Bosnia-Herzegovina marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in which thousands of Muslims were killed by Serbian forces, amid outrage over Serbia's role in the conflict.

     Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was whisked through angry mourners shouting and booing. Vucic's guards tried to protect him with bags, umbrellas and their raised arms, as people hurl stones, bottles and other objects at him. An aid said the prime minister had been hit in the face with a rock and that his glasses were broken.

     A crowd surged up the hill behind the delegation as they ran for their cars and eventually left.

     The incident marred the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre, underscoring the depth of anger over Belgrade’s continued denial of the crime as genocide.

    STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

29th June, 2015

CHILDREN "BEARING THE BRUNT" OF AFGHANISTAN CONFLICT AS CASUALITIES RISE

Children are bearing the brunt of ongoing conflict in Afghanistan with UN figures showing that as many as 2,502 were killed or injured last year - the highest number since monitoring began in 2007.

     Releasing the 18 page report last week, Leila Zerrougui, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, said the figures show the suffering of children in the country has increased.

     “These tragically high casualty numbers show that children are bearing the brunt of the conflict, and unfortunately this trend continues with the deterioration of the security environment into 2015,” she said.

     The report - the third on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, showed that 2,302 children were killed, and 5,047 injured from 1st September, 2010, to 31st December, 2014. Child casualties recorded in 2014 were 47 per cent higher than those of the previous year and 110 per cent higher than those recorded in 2012.

    Rising numbers of children are suffering as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan, according to a new UN report. DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

23rd June, 2015

"A WORLD AT WAR" - GLOBAL NUMBER OF DISPLACED PEOPLE REACHES ALMOST 60 MILLION

The number of people forcibly displaced from their home rose to almost 60 million at the end of last year, according to the UN refugee agency's latest annual report.

     The report, Global Trends Report: World at War, found that the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of last year reached 59.5 million, up from 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago. The latest figure includes 13.9 million people newly displaced during 2014 at a rate of 42,500 a day.

     "Persecution, conflict, generalised violence, and human rights violations have formed a 'nation of the displaced' that, if they were a country, would make up the 24th largest in the world," the report said.

     Turkey became the largest refugee hosting country for the first time during the year, with 1.59 million refugees in the country. It was followed by Pakistan (1.51 million), Lebanon (1.15 million), Iran (982,000) and Ethiopia (659,500).

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

16th June, 2015

WORLD CRISES HAVE SHOWN GOVERNMENTS' WILLINGNESS TO IGNORE OBLIGATIONS TO REFUGEES, SAYS AMNESTY REPORT

Crises in the Mediterranean and in South East Asia have "exposed" governments’ willingness to ignore legal obligations in dealing with refugees, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

     Noting that the world was facing numerous simultaneous refugee crises - the biggest of which has been caused as a result of the conflict in Syria where half of the country's population has been displaced, the report said that while the global refugee crisis may be fuelled by conflict and persecution, "it is compounded by the neglect of the international community in the face of this human suffering".

     "The Mediterranean and South East Asia crises exposed governments’ willingness to ignore legal obligations and humanitarian imperatives," it said.

     The briefing paper - The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect - added that while people smugglers have been rightly blamed for sending thousands to their deaths in both the European and South East Asian crises, this did not absolve governments of their responsibility to provide refugees with protection.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

9th June, 2015

RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF "INCREASINGLY UNDER ATTACK" AMID "WORRYING" TREND FOR SOME COUNTRIES TO IDENTIFY WITH ONE RELIGION, SAYS REPORT

The right to freedom of religious belief is "increasingly under attack" amid a worrying and increasing trend for some countries to identify with one specific religion or belief, according to the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance.

     In the intergroup's first annual report on The State of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the World, its authors, Dutch MEPs Peter van Dalen and Dennis de Jong, said that while a number of organisations were reporting an increase in attacks on freedom of religion by both state and non-state groups, it was "more worrying" that some countries continue to deny the universality of freedom of religious belief and that an increasing number of countries "seem to identify with one specific religion or belief, in spite of inclusive language enshrined in their legislation". They said this trend was particularly visible in parts of Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

     The two authors - co-presidents of the intergroup - also highlighted the rise of non-state Islamic extremist groups "with territorial ambitions" such as Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

1st June, 2015

NUMBER OF CHRONICALLY HUNGRY DROPS BELOW 800 MILLION, SAYS UN REPORT

The number of chronically hungry people in the world has dropped below the 800 million mark - more than 216 million fewer people than in 1991-92 but still equating to one out of every nine people on the globe, according to a UN report.

     The annual The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 (SOFI) report, published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation along with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme, found that the number of hungry had dropped to 795 million people worldwide, including 780 million in the developing regions - a figure which equates to about 10.9 per cent of the world population.

     It shows that 72 out of 129 countries monitored by the FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole only missing the target by a small margin.

     In addition, it reveals that 29 countries have met a more ambitious goal - laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996 - of halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015. 

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

28th May, 2015

CHINA'S TOP BODY WARNS COMMUNISTS AGAINST CHRISTIANITY, RELIGION

China's top anti-corruption body has warned Communist Party members - the elite of the nation - that they must refrain from religious activities amid concerns over the rapid spread of Christianity here.

     The warning, seen by critics as an ominous sign for religious freedom in China, was published in the official newsletter of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, BosNewsLife established.

     It cited conditions in Wenzhou city in Zhejiang province, sometimes known as the new “Jerusalem of China”, because of its growing number of believers in Jesus Christ. Since late-2013, officials have been ordering the removal of crosses from churches saying they “violate” building codes.

     Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper said some cadres had abandoned Communism’s core doctrine of ‘dialectic materialism’ and turned to religion instead. Getting rid of such officials “whose thoughts are not on the party,” and bolstering party ideology had become important issues, the paper commented.

     MARTIN ROTH, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

19th May, 2015

'LIBYA IS A COUNTRY WHERE CHRISTIANS SHOULDN'T COME' - REPORT DETAILS ABUSE FACED BY MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES IN THE NORTH AFRICAN NATION

Amid the growing crisis in the Mediterranean Sea where more than 5,000 refugees have died in the past 18 months, an Amnesty International report has detailed the abuse faced by foreign nationals in Libya, credited as a key driver in pushing people to attempt the sea route from north Africa to Europe.

     The report, Libya is full of cruelty: Stories of abduction, sexual violence and abuse from migrants and refugees, is based on the testimonies of 70 people collected in Italy and Tunisia earlier this year. It found that migrants and refugees in Libya, where there remain ongoing conflicts between armed groups and two parallel governments, "are increasingly exploited and forced to work without pay, physically assaulted and robbed in their homes or in the streets".

     "Religious minorities, in particular Christian migrants and refugees, are at highest risk of abuses, including abductions, torture and other ill-treatment and unlawful killings, from armed groups that seek to enforce their own interpretation of Islamic law and have been responsible for serious human rights abuses," it said, noting that they also faced "widespread discrimination and persecution" from their employers, criminal groups and in immigration detention centres.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on a new report detailing the abuse of migrants and refugees - particularly religious minorities including Christians - in Libya...  |  more... |

 

11th May, 2015

ALBANIA OPENS SECRET COMMUNIST-ERA FILES TO THE PUBLIC

Victims of Albania's former Communist regime will finally be able to see who spied on them, after parliament recently passed a law opening up communist-era secret police files. The decision came more than two decades after protests ended nearly half a century of dictatorship in what Pope Francis called "a land of martyrs" when devoted Christians and political opponents were being persecuted.

     Legislators approved the law with an 84-22 majority. The law also bans former members of what was known as Sigurimi from the civil service and public office in the future. But those currently holding such positions will not be sacked.

     Communist leader Enver Hoxha seized power in 1944 and isolated Albania as a one-party state until mass protests in the early 1990s.

     The elections in 1992 eventually ended 47 years of harsh communist rule, but initially political instability remained with a quick turnover of presidents.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports on moves to open up Albania's murky past...  |  more... |

 

4th May, 2015

VIETNAM'S TWO FACES

As Vietnam celebrates 40 years since the end of what is commonly known elsewhere as the ‘Vietnam War’, its government faces accusations of failing to ensure the rights of its citizens to religious freedom.

     “In Vietnam, we still have a government that shows two faces – the friendly and welcoming face on one side and the oppressive face on the other.”

     These words, attributed by Open Doors to a Vietnamese Christian whose name was withheld, provide an insight into a country which, on the one hand, is reportedly close to making positive reforms to its laws on religious practice, but on the other is accused by the UN of “gross violation” of religious freedom “in the face of constant surveillance, intimidation, harassment and persecution”.

     Where Vietnam is concerned, religious freedom is rarely black and white.

     The World Watch Monitor reports on the issue of religious freedom in Vietnam...  |  more... |



27th April, 2015

ARMENIA REMEMBERS MASS KILLINGS

Ceremonies have begun in Armenia to mark the centenary of the start of mass killings of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks. Several leaders remembered what Pope Francis and other officials view as the first genocide of the 20st century.

     There was a moment of reflection when a giant church bell reverberated over the square.

     Many gathered in the capital Yerevan to remember on a windy, sun filled Friday, one of the world's darkest chapters. Exactly 100 years ago the mass killings began of predominantly Christian Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

     The annual 24th April commemorations mark the day when some 250 Armenian intellectuals were rounded up in what is regarded as the first step of the massacres.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports on commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians by the then Ottoman Empire...  |  more... |

 

20th April, 2015

SOUTH SUDAN'S CHURCHES UNDERTAKE TO START PEACE PROCESS TO ADDRESS 'MISTRUST' OF CONFLICT PARTIES

Church leaders in South Sudan have joined in calling for peace in the troubled African nation following a meeting held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, last week.

     Some 20 church leaders from South Sudan and Ethiopia gathered for the two day 'consultation' which had been organised by the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) in collaboration with the World Council of Churches to look for fresh ways forward after the recent collapse of peace talks aimed at ending the 16 month conflict in the country.

     Tens of thousands of people have died and more than two million have been displaced from their homes in the East African nation since the war broke out in December 2013. The war, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, came two years after the country won independence from its northern neighbour, Sudan.

     In a statement issued at the end of the gathering, the South Sudan leaders noted the unity of the country's churches and said they would undertake "to begin a peace process to address the mistrust of the parties and to bring them together to discuss the needs of the people and the future of the nation".

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the outcomes of a gathering of South Sudan's church leaders last week...  |  more... |

 

13th April, 2015

AMERICANS ALMOST UNANIMOUS IN SUPPORT FOR UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO THE BIBLE BUT FAIL TO SEE THE NEED FOR ONGOING TRANSLATION WORK, ACCORDING TO LATEST BIBLE REPORT

Ninety-eight per cent of Americans believe that all people should have access to the Bible but just one in five see a need for ongoing Bible translation with seven out of 10 unaware that the Bible is not available in some languages, according to the findings of the American Bible Society's annual State of the Bible report.

     Drawing on a survey of 2,000 people conducted by the Barna Group, the report found that 72 per cent of people in the US were unaware of the ongoing need for Bible translation while only 21 per cent recognised the need for ongoing translation.

     This is despite the fact that the Bible has not been completely translated into more than half of the world's 6,901 languages. According to the report, the Bible has yet to be completely translated into 57 per cent of the world's languages with translations in progress in 26 per cent of languages and no Scripture translation work yet started in  some 31 per cent of languages.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of the latest report looking at US attitudes towards the Bible...  |  more... |

 

7th April, 2015

THOUSANDS OF NEW TESTAMENTS DISTRIBUTED IN IRAN AHEAD OF EASTER, SAYS MISSION GROUP

Missionaries say they were able to distribute more than 18,000 Persian New Testaments ahead of Easter in Iran despite reports of persecution.

"This is the good news from evangelists who are in the midst of two weeks of dedicated outreach to mark 'Norouz' (Persian New Year)," said Elam Ministries, a mission group founded by Iranian church leaders.

    In a statement to BosNewsLife the group said "Norouz always heralds intensive evangelism for Iranian churches, and this year New Testaments are being snapped up thick and fast."

The group claimed over 6,000 New Testaments were distributed in one city alone. "They are so popular that the evangelists are in danger of running out."

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

30th March, 2015

RELIGIOUS GROUPS IN CRIMEA FACING GREATER RESTRICTIONS FOLLOWING RUSSIAN ANNEXATION, SAYS REPORT

The imposition of Russian restrictions upon freedom of religion in Crimea following the annexation of the region last year has seen individuals and religious communities facing raids, fines, the seizure of religious literature and even the expulsion of invited foreign leaders, according to a report from Norwegian-based religious freedom advocates Forum 18.

     In a report marking a year since the region was annexed, the group said religious organisations have also faced the "unilateral cancellation of property rental contracts and obstructions to regaining places of worship confiscated in the Soviet period".

     They note that, according to Russian Justice Ministry only one per cent of religious communities which had state registration under Ukrainian law have been reregistered under Russian law ahead of a 1st March deadline. This equates to only 14 of Crimea's 1,546 religious communities.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of Forum 18's latest religious freedom survey of Crimea...  |  more... |

 

25th March, 2015

INCIDENTS AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN INDIA JUMP UNDER MODI, REPORT SHOWS

The number of incidents against Christians in India has increased 55 per cent since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister in May 2014, according to figures from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).

     During a protest by religious minorities near India’s Parliament House last Thursday, rights activist and Christian leader John Dayal said there have been 168 incidents against Christians in Modi’s first 300 days in power. That figure compares with 108 such cases in the 300 days before Modi took office on May 26, 2014, according to the EFI.

     Reported attacks against the Christian community in January totalled 20, with another 20 in February and 13 so far in March, according to the EFI. By comparison, in the first five months of 2014 there were only 32 anti-Christian incidents before Modi took power.

    Morning Star News reports...  |  more... |

 

16th March, 2015

NO LET UP IN PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN IRAN, DESPITE PRESIDENT ROUHANI'S PROMISES FOR GREATER RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, SAYS UK REPORT

There has been no respite in the persecution of Christians in Iran following the mid-2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, despite his campaign rhetoric that justice meant equal opportunities for all, including religious minority groups, according to a UK report released last week.

The joint report from the The Christians in Parliament All Party Parliamentary Group and the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief found that despite pre-election promises made by President Rouhani of greater respect for human rights, no such change had occurred.

It found that during the first 18 months of his term in office, "there has been continuing systemic persecution and discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities in Iran" with, among Christians, the worst forms of persecution reserved for Muslin background converts and those ministering among Muslim-background believers.

DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

10th March, 2015

FEARING ELECTION VIOLENCE, NIGERIANS FORFEIT VOTE TO MOVE TO OTHER END OF THE COUNTRY

Ahead of Nigeria’s general elections on 28th March, hundreds of people, fearful of election violence, have fled back to their place of origin, World Watch Monitor has been told.

  The election was originally scheduled for 14th February, before being postponed to the March date for security reasons.

     Take for example Sam Nwodo, 48, a dealer in motor parts, who has moved his family from Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State in northern Nigeria, to his native Imo State in the south. In 2000, Zamfara State was the first State to implement sharia law in the country. This act was then followed by 11 other states in the north.

   The election between the two main candidates: incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition (All Progressive Congress, APC) one, retired general Muhammed Buhari, has crystallised tensions and divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

    A report from the World Watch Monitor...  |  more... |

 

2nd March, 2015

AMNESTY CALLS FOR WORLD LEADERS TO TAKE "IMMEDIATE ACTION" TO PROTECT CIVILIANS AFFECTED BY CONFLICT

Governments around the world need to take steps to make a "fundamental change" in the way they respond to global conflicts if civilians are to be better protected from violence, the worsening refugee and humanitarian crises are to be addressed and the right of freedom of expression is to be upheld.

     That's according to human rights organisation Amnesty International which last week launched its annual report assessing the state of human rights across the globe.

     Writing in the preface to the report - which covered 160 countries, Amnesty's Secretary-General Salil Shetty said the past year had been "devastating" for those suffering in war zones, citing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Gaza, Nigeria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan as just some of those in which "civilians bore the brunt".

     He said that as well as preventing mass atrocities, governments have also denied direct assistance to millions who have fled towns and villages affected by violence.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

23rd February, 2015

NEW HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP CALLS FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF SAFE HAVEN IN IRAQ FOR CHRISTIANS AND OTHER RELIGIOUS MINORITY GROUPS

A new province should be established in Iraq for Christians, Yezidis and other persecuted minority groups and a special "national guard" created to protect it, according to a newly formed Christian human rights organisation.

In a report released this month, the US-based 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative called for support for the establishment of a Nineveh Plains Province in Iraq "uniquely designed for Christians, Yezidis and other besieged minorities", protected by a national guard to be called the "Nineveh Protection Unit".

     In addition, the report calls for pressure to be applied to the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to guarantee protected confiscated by the so-called Islamic State - including homes and places of worship - would be returned to its "rightful owners" once the lands under the sway of IS are liberated.

    DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

16th February, 2015

THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS ATTACKED IN INDIA, FIVE KILLED, LAST YEAR, SAYS REPORT

Thousands of Christians faced severe persecution and at least five believers were murdered in India last year, according to a new report.

     The report released by the India-based Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) documented 120 attacks on Christians and their institutions, including churches, across India in 2014 alone.

     It said between December 2013 and December 2014 some 7,000 Christians "faced threats, violence and displacement."

     Among those targeted were 1,600 women, about 500 children and 300 members of the clergy and community leadership, added the report, which was published by India's Hindustan Times newspaper.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

8th February, 2015

NEW UK COMMISSION AIMS TO "AMPLIFY" CRIES OF PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS

The UK's newly formed Religious Liberty Commission has called for a special envoy on freedom of religion or belief to be established within the British Government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office with a special mandate to report on persecution around the world and press for action.

     A commission of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK, the commission is comprised of persecuted church advocacy groups Christianity Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors UK and Release International. It was launched in London earlier this month under the banner of 'One voice for the persecuted church'.

     As well as calling for a special envoy, it wants the UK Government to produce an annual report to demonstrate the steps taken by the UK government to promote religious freedom.

     Speaking at the commission's launch at the UK Houses of Parliament last week, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby reportedly said the "quiet creeping removals of freedom which breed a climate of fear and animosity" in some countries is "where we must first speak out".

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

2nd February, 2015

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN CHINA "ARGUABLY" AT WORST LEVEL IN DECADES, CLAIMS ADVOCACY GROUP

Last year "arguably brought about the worst persecution" of Christians in China that the country has seen for decades - a trend in keeping with that being seen worldwide, according to persecuted church advocacy organisation International Christian Concern.

     The US-based organisation said last week that Zhejiang Province had faced the strictest crackdown on church activity of China's regions with a minimum of 426 crosses removed or churches demolished there as of mid-December.

     It said there had been "violent confrontations" between church members and government officials in the city of Wenzhou in the province including one incident in July in which hundreds of officials and uniformed individuals stormed Pingyang County's Salvation Church. Fourteen members of the church were severely injured in the confrontation and despite numerous calls to police, local authorities refused to send officer to the church.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

28th January, 2015

REPORTS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM VIOLATIONS IN CUBA INCREASED IN 2014 DESPITE GOVERNMENT CLAIMS, SAYS REPORT

The number of documented violations of religious freedoms in Cuba saw a significant increase in 2014 despite government claims of increased respect, according to a new report from persecuted church advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

     The organisation recorded 220 separate religious freedom violations in 2014, may of which involved "dozens of victims" - a figure well above the 2013 total of 180, the 2012 total of 120 and the 2011 total of just 40.

     The report, Cuba: Freedom of Religion or Belief, said that "religious groups across the spectrum all reported varying degrees of hostility from the government". "Few reported any notable improvement," it said.

     The report said government agents "continued to employ more brutal and public tactics" than seen in the previous decade with the organisation seeing regular reports of severe harassment and sporadic reports of "violent beatings" of Protestant pastors and lay leaders while women affiliated with the dissident group, Ladies in White, were dragged violently away from Sunday services "week after week".

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

19th January, 2015

FIVE YEARS ON FROM A DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE, COMPASSION CONTINUE WORKING TO BRING NEW HOPE TO HAITI

HaitiIt's five years ago this month that a magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck the heart of the Caribbean nation of Haiti, leaving in its wake an estimated death toll of more than 200,000, tens of thousands more injured and catastrophic damage to homes, schools and government buildings.
     Water and sanitation-related diseases ran rampant in the aftermath of the disaster - as many as 700,000 cases of cholera have been reported since the earthquake on 12th January, 2010, with some 8,500 lives lost.

    Child development and advocacy ministry, Compassion - which supports almost 80,000 children in Haiti through its child sponsorship program - was among the many NGOs that responded in the wake of the disaster, a particularly poignant response given 62 Compassion-assisted children, a Haitian staff member and a contractor working for the organisation died in the event.

    Andrew Merry, Compassion Australia's field experience coordinator, has visited the country every year since 2011 (and is returning in August again). "The reason that the earthquake was so devastating was because of the level of poverty," he says.

    DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

12th January, 2015

CONTROVERSY OVER 'RECONVERSIONS' IN INDIA LEADS TO PROPOSAL TO OUTLAW CONVERSIONS

Hindu nationalist drive to “reconvert” non-Hindus over the Christmas season foundered, but protests against the campaign led to an unexpected consequence: a proposal to ban on all conversions except “reconversions” to Hinduism.
      During an Advent season that saw the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi propose a “Good Governance Day” on 25th December to divert attention away from Christmas, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu proposed a ban on all religious conversions – not just “forced” or “fraudulent” ones.

     Naidu floated the proposal with the supposed goal of quieting the growing din over conversions to minority faiths and alleged “reconversions” to Hinduism, though Christian leaders believe it came at least in part to appease Hindu nationalists upset at the government effort to distance itself from the “reconversion” campaign.
      While no legislation has been drafted, voices within and outside of parliament supported the proposal by Naidu – who said he was a proud member of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – which would brazenly violate religious freedom provisions in India’s constitution.

  Morning Star News reports...  |  more... |

 

22nd December, 2014

NEW ROMANIAN PRESIDENT SWORN IN AMID CHALLENGES

Romania's Parliament has sworn in the first ethnic German as president of the former Communist nation, at a time when the country remembers the 25th anniversary of a bloody revolution that ended decades of Communist dictatorship. Former mayor Klaus Iohannis promised a different style from the combative outgoing president Traian Basescu.

     Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel prayed for his presidency as the country faces major challenges. The blessing in front of parliament in Bucharest came after the 55-year-old pro-Western Iohannis was sworn in as Romania's president on Sunday.

     The centre right politician told the joint session of the lower house and senate that he becomes president following "an election that was a triumph for democracy, 25 years after communism ended" when devoted Christians and ethnic minorities, including ethnic Germans and Hungarians, faced persecution.

    BosNewsLife reports...  |  more... |

 

15th December, 2014

ONE YEAR AFTER CONFLICT BROKE OUT, SOUTH SUDAN'S CHILDREN CONTINUE TO SUFFER

A year on from the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan, it's estimated that as many as 400,000 children are missing school while  some 12,000 are being used by armed forces and groups.

UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, said the year-long conflict had driven hundreds of thousands of children from their homes, schools and communities and seen them subjected to violence, malnutrition and disease.

     UNICEF described the scale of the crisis as "staggering" and says that since the outbreak of violence on 15th December last year, almost 750,000 children had been displaced from their homes within the country while more than 320,000 were living  as refugees.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

8th December, 2014

ETHIOPIA DESTROYS EVANGELICAL CHURCH BUILDING; 100 CHRISTIANS FORCED UNDERGROUND

Some 100 evangelical Christians in eastern Ethiopia were without a central place for worship on Friday, 5th December, after local authorities destroyed their church building, a church official and rights activists said.

     The Y Semay Birihan Church, or Heaven's Light Church, was demolished last week by Shenkore district police in the heavily Islamic city of Harar, said Pastor Zemach Tadesse, the 30-year-old senior pastor of the church.

     Just days before the perceived attack, officials forcibly removed the church's exterior sign and warned believers not to worship there citing complaints by a local Muslim, according to Christians familiar with the case.

     After Christians refused to halt worship services, police reportedly arrived 28th November to destroy the church building. Security forces were allegedly seen removing roofing materials and the church's siding while confiscating church properties. Police officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

     BosNewsLife reports on some of the hardships facing Christians in Ethiopia...  |  more... |

 

2nd December, 2014

POPE FRANCIS ADDRESSES PLIGHT OF CHRISTIANS IN TURKISH VISIT

Turkey's tiny Christian population was grateful for Pope Francis's late November visit to their country, during which he called for an end to all forms of violent fundamentalism in the war-torn Middle East.

     In a 30th November joint statement with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Pope Francis said that constructive dialogue with Islam is necessary to address the grave challenges of warfare in the region, including the persecution of Iraqi and Syrian Christians.

     "We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes."

     Vatican officials implied to the Associated Press in its 27th November story that Francis was forced to be delicate when addressing Muslim-Christian infighting due to the diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the international coalition fighting ISIS.

     The World Watch Monitor reports on Pope Francis' recent visit to Turkey...  |  more... |

 

24th November, 2014

13 PEOPLE KILLED EVERY DAY IN UKRAINE CONFLICT, SAYS UN REPORT

A UN report released earlier this month has found almost 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine since a ceasefire was ostensibly established there in early September - equating to a rate of an average of 13 deaths a day.

     The report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that despite the ceasefire coming into force on 5th September, "hostilities in the east and related human rights violations and abuses continued" and that, on average, 13 people were killed every day between 6th September and 31st October.

     It takes the death toll since hostilities broke out in mid-April to at least 4,042 with a further 9,350 people injured in the conflict-affected area of eastern Ukraine.

     The report - which was based on information gathered by the 35-strong UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine - found that in the territories under the control of the rebel groups known as the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, "there continues to be a total breakdown in law and order, and a lack of any human rights protection for the population under their control".

     DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the findings of the latest UN report on the situation in Ukraine...  |  more... |

 

19th November, 2014

FIGURES SHOW 35.8 MILLION PEOPLE LIVING IN "MODERN SLAVERY" - 20 PER CENT MORE THAN PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

There are 20 per cent more people living in slavery around the world than previously thought, according to the latest Global Slavery Index released this week.
      Published by the Walk Free Foundation, the index found that an estimated 35.8 million people are "trapped in modern slavery" equating to a 20 per cent increase on last year's figure - a jump which the authors attribute to improved precision in measurement processes and not a rise in the number of cases of slavery.

     The report - which defines modern slavery as including slave-like practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale and exploitation of children including in conflict situations - says while slavery existed in all 167 countries included in the index, five countries - India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Russia - account for 61 per cent of all those who live in slavery.

     It estimates the number of people living in slavery in India at 14.29 million, followed by 3.24 million in China, 2.06 million in Pakistan, 1.2 million in Uzbekistan (a new entrant to the top five) and 1.05 million in Russia.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the latest findings of the Global Slavery Index...  |  more... |

 

10th November, 2014

GLOBAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN "SERIOUS DECLINE", SAYS REPORT

Religious freedom has experienced a period of "serious decline" around the world with 60 per cent of nations obstructing freedom of worship in some way, according to a new report from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
      The 12th edition of the Religious Freedom in the World report, which covers the period from October, 2012 to June, 2014, found in more than 40 per cent of the world's 196 countries religious freedom is impaired at a medium or high level or in decline and that where there has been a change concerning religious freedom, it has "almost always" been for the worse. In only six countries has religious freedom improved and in four of these - Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Cuba and Qatar - there remains a high or medium level of persecution.

     The report found that the 20 countries where religious freedom is most highly impaired are all linked to extremist Islam - such as in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and the Maldives - or have authoritarian regimes - such as in the case of Burma, China, North Korea, and Azerbaijan.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of a global religious freedom survey...  |  more... |

 

3rd November, 2014

TURKISH PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM TO OFFER CLASS IN CHRISTIANITY FOR FIRST TIME

The Turkish education system’s mandatory religion classes are not fair to students who do not follow the country’s majority Sunni Islam and must amend its policies, according to a recent verdict of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
      As Turkey is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, the ECHR decision is binding.

Religion classes, starting in elementary schools, are, according to the Turkish Constitution to be neutral lessons on religion, but critics say they impose Sunni Muslim rituals in class that many Turks - including non-Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists - don’t espouse.

     Turkey is a secular Muslim state, with almost 97 per cent of the population nominally Muslim.

     While Sunni Muslims represent about 70 to 80 per cent, about 15 to 25 per cent of the 75 million population are Alevi, a mystical school of Shia Islamic theology. This makes them the country’s largest religious minority, though they are not recognised as such.

     DAMARIS KREMIDA, of the World Watch Monitor, reports...  |  more... |

 

27th October, 2014

UKRAINIANS PRAY AS ELECTIONS BEGIN AMID WAR

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which suffered persecution under Communism, has urged voters to act against corruption and political candidates to stay away of populism.

    Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk made the appeal in a wide ranging interview ahead of the first parliamentary elections since the February overthrow of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Ukrainians, he said, must be united and “not think about new positions, new honours, new profit” but “how to save our country, how to preserve a free and independent Ukraine”.

    He told Vatican Radio that voters should primarily “act against corruption” and “not sell their votes”, a common practice in impoverished Ukraine. Shevchuk warned a candidate who tries to buy votes is not capable of “keeping to the moral level of voters’ demands and of Ukrainian society”.

    BosNewsLife reports on the Ukrainian elections...  |  more... |

 

21st October, 2014

CONCERNS OVER ONGOING KIDNAPPINGS OF CLERGY IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Rights activists expressed concern this week over the ongoing kidnappings of clergy in Central African Republic (CAR) after a Polish Catholic missionary was abducted in Baboua, some 550 kilometres north-west of the capital Bangui.

     Priest Mateusz Dziedzic was captured last week, on 12th October, by eight men from rebel group Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), though Poland's Foreign Ministry said he was "treated well."

      The rebels say they will release the priest only if authorities free their leader Abdolaye Miskine, who was imprisoned in neighboring Cameroon in September 2013.

     FDPC was part of the 'Seleka alliance' that took control of CAR in a coup in March 2013. Following a dispute with Seleka officials, Abdolaye Miskine left CAR and moved to Cameroon, where he was detained.

     Following the abduction of a Polish missionary last week, BosNewsLife reports on ongoing concerns over the kidnapping of clergy in the Central African Republic...  |  more... |

 

13th October, 2014

AS UN TARGETED BY ISLAMISTS IN MALI, BISHOPS URGE RENEWED PEACE EFFORTS

While the world’s attention is fixed on IS in Syria and Iraq, it’s easy to forget that last year, French troops were rushed to Mali to prevent a jihadist-influenced coup that threatened to take over the country. This swift intervention meant that the coup which took over much of the north was halted.

      For nearly a year in 2012 armed Islamist groups had ruled that region, banning the practice of other religions and desecrating and looting churches and other places of worship. Thousands, including many Christians, fled the occupation and found refuge in the south of the country or in neighboring countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso.

     Now amidst a new upsurge of jihadist activity in the north, Mali’s Catholic bishops have expressed their concern over the security situation in the whole country.
      A recent series of attacks by militants has targeted mainly UN peacekeepers. On 7th October, a Senegalese UN peacekeeper was killed in an attack on a joint French and UN camp in the northern town of Kidal.

      ILLIA DJADI, of the World Watch Monitor, reports on rising concerns about militant attacks in Mali...  |  more... |

 

6th October, 2014

ALGERIAN CHRISTIANS REFUSE TO YIELD TO FEAR

The assassination of a French tourist by militants in Algeria has raised the fear of new terrorist attacks in the country. Hervé Gourdel, 55, was beheaded on 24th September by a radical Islamist group, ‘Soldiers of the Caliphate’ linked to Islamic State in Iraq, in the north-eastern region of Kabylie.

     Gourdel, who was an experienced hiker, was kidnapped on 21st September, along with five Algerians, but his companions were released 14 hours later.

     His murder sparked a wave of indignation and anger, notably via social media. It reminds Algeria and the world of the civil war of the 1990s, also known as ‘‘The Black Decade’’ when more than 150,000 people died violently, while thousands of others went missing. This followed the annulment of an election won by an Islamist group, after which the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) sought to gain power, opposed by the Algerian military.

     ILLIA DJADI, of the World Watch Monitor, reports on the situation for Christians in Algeria...  |  more... |

 

1st October, 2014

CALL FOR EU TO MAKE GREATER EFFORT TO TACKLE RISING ASYLUM SEEKER DEATH TOLL IN MEDITERRANEAN

More than 21,000 asylum seekers are estimated to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea since 1988 as they tried to reach European shores with more than 2,500 drowned or gone missing after leaving North Africa in the last eight-and-a-half months alone, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

     Having found that an estimated 21,344 people drowned in the Mediterranean between 1988 and 15th September this year, the report, Lives Adrift: Refugees and Migrants in Peril in the Central Mediterranean, calls on the European Union to offer safer and more regular routes for refugees to access protection - including increasing resettlement and humanitarian admission places - and a greater European Union-wide effort to strengthen search and rescue operations in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

     The report found that the Italian Navy alone rescued as many as 138,866 people between 18th October last year and 18th September - including almost all of those refugees and migrants who irregularly crossed Europe's southern borders by sea this year - under Operation Mare Nostrum. The operation was launched in the wake of a series of shipwrecks in October, 2013, which claimed the lives of more than 500 people, many of them children.

     DAVID ADAMS writes of the findings of a new Amnesty International report calling for immediate action to tackle the rising numbers of asylum seekers drowning in the Mediterranean...  |  more... |

 

22nd September, 2014

AN "INVISIBLE GHETTO OF REGULATION" SURROUNDS RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN BELARUS, SURVEY FINDS

The government of Belarus looks to keep religious communities within an "invisible ghetto of regulation", closely monitoring religious gatherings and forcing religious communities to "keep out of sight" despite a growing reluctance to crackdown on freedom of religion, according to a new report by a Norway-based religious freedom advocacy group.

    The Forum 18 News Service religious freedom survey found that while compared with some other post-Soviet states, "the relative rarity of high-profile violations of freedom of religion or belief – such as arrests of leaders of religious communities - may suggest an absence of restrictions...in fact, the state continues to keep religious communities contained within an invisible ghetto of regulation".

    A 2002 Religion Law means all religious communities must be registered with the state and places geographical limits on where religious activity may take place. Foreign religious personnel require state permission to carry out any religious activity in the country and religious gatherings in private homes must not be either "regular or large scale".

    DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of a religious freedom survey of Belarus conducted by Forum 18 News Service...  |  more... |

 

15th September, 2014

CAMEROON'S CHURCHES STRUGGLE TO COPE WITH BOKO HARAM SPILLOVER

Northern Cameroon is more than ever in the sights of Boko Haram, as details of atrocities committed by the radical Islamic sect from neighboring Nigeria continue to emerge.

     The militant sect, which now controls several major Nigerian towns, has set up a caliphate with a strict implementation of sharia law. A lawmaker told the BBC that dead bodies of civilians remained littered on the streets of Bama, a key town of Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state - seized by Boko Haram earlier this month. Christians in the occupied areas are being persecuted, it is reported. Christian men have been caught and beheaded while women have been forced to convert and been married to some of the militants.

     Their offensive has forced thousands of civilians to flee into neighboring Cameroon. Making a mockery of the border (which the Cameroon authorities say they’ve closed to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus) militants have intensified their attacks in Cameroon’s villages and towns. As in Nigeria, Christian populations are particularly targeted.

     ILLIA DJADI, of the World Watch Monitor, reports on the strain being placed on Cameroon's churches amid attacks in the region from Islamic extremist groups like Boko Haram...  |  more... |

 

8th September, 2014

AN OLD STORY UNDER INDIA'S NEW GOVERNMENT

More than 600 attacks on minority Muslims and Christians during the first 100 days of the new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have prompted Christians and activists to set out a series of protests.
      At a 2nd September meeting in New Delhi attended by over 50 Christian leaders, lawyers and social activists, several committees were set up to draw national attention to the “conspiracy” behind the sporadic violence.

     On 4th September, the core committee announced plans to bring out a 'Minority Report on 100 days of Modi Governance', detailing atrocities during the first 100 days of the new government. The government under the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, known for espousing Hindu nationalism, assumed power on 26th May after its landslide victory in the election to choose India’s 16th Parliament.

     ANTO AKKARA, of the World Watch Monitor, reports on moves to hold the new Indian government accountable for the treatment of minority groups including Christians...  |  more... |

 

1st September, 2014

PALESTINIAN CHURCH FORCED OUT OF BUILDING IN EAST JERUSALEM

Seven years of harassment and attacks by hard-line Muslims have finally forced a Palestinian church in East Jerusalem out of their building, church leaders said.

    The congregation of Calvary Baptist Church, under Holy Land Missions, moved out of their building in the Shofat area of Jerusalem in July after Islamists threatened their landlord. They are looking for a safer, more permanent place to meet.
     Pastor Steven Khoury said he was emotionally torn when he handed over the keys. The persecution was difficult but had also been a catalyst for spiritual development, he said.

    “It was very emotional, because a lot of our people really started to grow there,” he said. “Most of the growth happened in Shofat because of the persecution.”

     The persecution started almost immediately after the congregation moved into the building in a predominantly Muslim area in 2007.

     Morning Star News reports...  |  more... |

 

25th August, 2014

BOLIVIA'S EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS LAUNCH FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Evangelical Christians have begun their battle against new measures that could result in the dissolution of Protestant denominations and other groups that have ministered in Bolivia for decades.
      As organisations that fail to comply with the new government measures will lose their legal standing, the National Association of Evangelicals of Bolivia (ANDEB) on 20th July presented a Petition of Unconstitutionality to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal seeking their repeal.

     “This law is totally unconstitutional, incongruent with religious liberty as enshrined in Article 4 of the constitution,” said Cochabamba attorney Ruth Montaño, who helped frame ANDEB’s Petition of Unconstitutionality.
      The battle over constitutional rights in Bolivia pits the country’s religious minorities against the government of President Evo Morales. The outcome could determine future freedom of religion in the Andean country, particularly for Bolivia’s 1.6 million Protestant Christians.

     Morning Star News reports...  |  more... |

 

18th August, 2014

POPE'S KOREA VISIT HIGHLIGHTS PLIGHT OF NORTH'S CHRISTIANS

Pope Francis has arrived in South Korea and is calling for peace and dialogue between the two Koreas instead of ‘displays of force.’ His five-day visit is the first time a pope has visited the Korean Peninsula in 25 years. It coincides with the appeals of two detained American Christians, Kenneth Bae and Jeffrey Fowle, both arrested in the North for their religious affiliations.

      Fowle, aged 56, was detained in May for alleged hostile acts that violated his tourist status after leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin. On 12th August, ten days after he pleaded for the US government to intervene, his wife and three children in Ohio said in a statement that they're "desperate for his release and return home."

     His trial date still has yet to be confirmed.

Also on 12th August, CNN reported that Korean-American Kenneth Bae’s health has significantly deteriorated due to strenuous work at his labour camp, and that he has been moved to hospital. This is the third time in less than two years.

     LAUREN GUNIAS reports for the World Watch Monitor...  |  more... |

 

11th August, 2014

CHRISTIANS IN HIDING AFTER MASSACRE IN NORTHERN NIGERIA REPORTEDLY LEAVES MORE THAN 100 DEAD

Christian residents were among those hiding in the hills of northeastern Nigeria last weekend after Islamic militants killed more than 100 people in and around the Christian town of Gwoza, rights activists and local residents said.

     An evangelical pastor and family members were among those killed in the area, Christian rights activists told BosNewsLife.

     The killings began when fighters of the militant Boko Haram group dressed in military uniforms arrived in Gwoza on motorcycles, in trucks, and in up to 50 Toyota Hilux vans during the early hours of Wednesday, 6th August, witnesses said.

     They reportedly overran the town, killing residents and prompting many to flee to the hills.

     Christians said militants also burned and looted homes and buildings after filling their trucks with food stocks for their base in the Sambisa Forest.

     BosNewsLife reports on the latest massacre targeting Christians in Nigeria...  |  more... |

 

4th August, 2014

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC ARCHBISHOP HOPEFUL, CAUTIOUS ABOUT CEASEFIRE

Armed groups in the Central African Republic have reached a ceasefire deal aimed at putting an end to the violence that has engulfed the country since March 2013.

     The 10-part agreement was signed on 23rd July in Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of Congo, under the aegis of Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, the international mediator on the crisis in CAR.

     The ceasefire is a step toward a resolution of the crisis, said the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga, who attended the Brazzaville meeting on behalf of the Interfaith Platform, formed of Christian and Muslim leaders.

     ''A Christian is one who lets himself be nourished by hope and therefore, I can only hope that this is the beginning of the end,’’ he told World Watch Monitor.
      Still, the archbishop said he remained cautious.

     World Watch Monitor reports on hopes a new ceasefire proves a turning point in the conflict in the Central African Republic...  |  more... |

 

28th July, 2014

DRAMATIC INCREASE IN NUMBER OF CHRISTIANS KILLED IN NIGERIA THIS YEAR, SAYS ADVOCACY GROUP

Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and others killed 1,631 Christians in Nigeria for their faith in the first six months of 2014 - a figure that is 91 per cent of the total Christians killed in the country in all of last year, according to advocacy group Jubilee Campaign.
     Last year 1,783 Nigerian Christians were killed for their faith, according to Jubilee Campaign. The increase in Christian deaths so far this year accompanies an increase in the total number of people killed during the period, mainly by Boko Haram - 4,099, which is 975 more than the total deaths from attacks by religious extremists for all of last year, 3,124, according to Jubilee.

    Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, has reportedly increased attacks with a large injection of funding from foreign terrorist groups.

Emmanuel Ogebe, manager of Jubilee Campaign’s Justice for Jos Project, told Morning Star News that he has noted a trend this year of Boko Haram targeting some Muslims primarily because they cooperate with the Nigerian military.

    Morning Star News reports on the rising death toll among Christians in Nigeria...  |  more... |

 

22nd July, 2014

INDIAN VILLAGES OUTLAW CHRISTIAN PRACTICES

Several villages in central India have outlawed the open practice of Christianity – a move of questionable legality yet one that worries church leaders who say it already has encouraged anti-Christian violence.

     “The situation is becoming worse. The anti-Christian propaganda is becoming stronger,” Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told World Watch Monitor on 15th July. Chhattisgarh is one of India’s 29 states, in the heart of the country.

     Pannalal said the village of Belar, in Chhattisgarh’s southeast district of Bastar, convened a Gram Sabha, or village assembly, on 6th July and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities.

      The Belar assembly, Pannalal said, was an echo to Gram Sabha of representatives from about a dozen villages held on 10th May in Sirsiguda village, also in Bastar district. There, the delegates passed a resolution banning the outward practice of non-Hindu faiths.

     ANTO AKKARA reports for the World Watch Monitor...  |  more... |

 

17th July, 2014

19 MILLION PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV DON'T KNOW IT

As many as 19 million people around the world do not know of their HIV-positive status, according to a new UNAIDS report.

    The Gap Report - the first of its kind - shows there were around 35 million people with HIV-positive status

at the end of 2013 but that more than half of them were unaware of it. It says that while research indicates people will seek life-saving treatment when they are made aware of their condition, services need to be scaled up substantially to reach all those living with it.

    The report shows that in sub-Saharan Africa - where 24.7 million people live with HIV - almost 90 per cent of those who tested positive to the condition went on to access anti-retroviral therapy. As many as 76 per cent of those successfully suppressed the virus, meaning it is unlikely they would transmit the virus to their sexual partners.

    DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

7th July, 2014

CHRISTIANS KILLED; CHURCH BUILDINGS DESTROYED IN SUDAN'S BOMBING OF CIVILIANS

Sudan’s bombing of civilian targets in the country’s Nuba Mountains in the past two months has killed at least 10 Christians, sources told Morning Star News.
    Four children and an elderly woman were among the victims of bombings in Sudan’s South Kordofan state as part of the regime’s plan to rid the country of Christians, mostly black ethnic Nuba, in an effort to render it solely Arabic and Islamic, Sudanese Christians say.

  Church leaders and aid workers told Morning Star News that Sudan’s bombings of civilian areas in its war with t he rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) killed 14-year-old Abdo al Nour and Abdel Rahman Hassan, 15, in the village of Um Serdiba on 13th June. In the same area on 20th May, according to the sources who requested anonymity, a Sudanese Air Force bombing killed 30-year-old Kimmia Calals of the Sudanese Church of Christ, leaving her nursing child motherless.

   Morning Star News reports on the damage indiscriminate bombings are causing in Sudan...  |  more... |

 

30th June, 2014

PAKISTAN HALTS CHRISTIAN EXODUS; SRI LANKA DETAINS REFUGEES

Pakistani authorities have prevented more than 1,000 "persecuted" Christians from fleeing Pakistan and hundreds of Christian asylum seekers have been detained in Sri Lanka, a well-informed source told BosNewsLife on Sunday, 29th June.

     "Pakistani authorities intercepted Christians who were travelling to join flights bound for Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong," said Farrukh H Saif, executive director of Pakistan-based human rights group World Vision In Progress (WVIP).
      "More than 1000 Pakistani Christians were illegally removed from their confirmed flights from Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore airports," in recent months he added. "It was the first step to end this mass exodus".

Christian refugees who managed to arrive in Sri Lanka have reportedly been targeted as well. Local media reported that the Sri Lankan immigration and investigation police started a joint operation against Pakistani Christian asylum seekers. They have reportedly detained hundreds of asylum seekers in recent weeks.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

26th June, 2014

MALAYSIA REFUSES CHURCH RIGHT TO APPEAL BAN ON USE OF WORD 'ALLAH'

Almost eight years after the Malaysian Catholic newspaper the Herald first sought to overthrow a government ban on it using the word ‘Allah’ for ‘God’ in its publication the judicial appeal process appears to have ended in failure.

      A federal court in Kuala Lumpur ruled on 23rd June that it would not grant the Catholic church permission to appeal against the decision.

     The court decided in October 2013 that only Malay Muslims had an exclusive right to use the word ‘Allah’ even though the word precedes the birth of Islam.

     The government’s order allowing only Muslims to use the word "Allah" is particularly frustrating to Christians in multiracial Malaysia, a nation once tolerant of all creeds.

    MATT GEORGE reports for the World Watch Monitor...  |  more... |

 

17th June, 2014

RELIGIOUS RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN INDONESIA EXPECTED TO CONTINUE AS ELECTIONS APPROACH

The average of 56 incidents of religious rights violations churches suffered annually in Indonesia over the past seven years is not expected to abate following elections next month, sources said.
      Jakarta Christian Communications Forum records show churches suffered 392 incidents of religious rights violations, mainly closures and attacks, from 2007 to 2013, and sources said neither of the candidates vying for the presidency of Indonesia on 9th July is expected to arrest the deterioration of religious freedom begun during that period.

     Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra, the Great Indonesia Movement Party, is beholden to the country’s largest Islamic party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), as well as the United Development Party (PPP), and both reject moderate Islam and object to protections for minority faiths. His opponent, Joko Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI-P), is also said to be under pressure to win the favor of Muslim extremists, although the party ideology is based on Pancasila, or unity and social justice for Indonesia’s various peoples.

     A report from Morning Star News says the troubles churches face in Indonesia are expected to continue in the lead-up to national elections next month...  |  more... |

 

9th June, 2014

CONCERNS ABOUT RELIGIOUS RIGHTS IN BHUTAN RAISED AT UN COUNCIL

Several member countries of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) have raised concerns over lack of rights for religious minorities in Bhutan, but legal recognition for Christians remains nowhere in sight.
      At the UNHRC’s recent Universal Periodic Review of the Buddhist nation in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States and other nations urged the tiny kingdom to protect religious freedom by allowing people to freely practice their faith and by granting all religious groups equal opportunity to obtain legal status.

     Among other international rights groups submitting reports, US-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) called on Bhutan to address various religious freedom concerns. ADF noted that Bhutan has enacted several laws restricting fundamental rights of its citizens, freedom of association and freedom of religion and belief of individuals.

     Morning Star News reports on ongoing concerns over the freedom of religion in Bhutan...  |  more... |

 

2nd June, 2014

ERITREA TURNS 21

The tiny state of Eritrea, flanked by Ethiopia on one side and the Red Sea on the other, celebrated its 21st birthday on 24th May, its Independence Day a public holiday.
      Yet beneath the official festivities, Eritrea’s six million people live under a regime that has earned a reputation as the most repressive in Africa.

     Now an exiled human-rights group, Release Eritrea, reports that more than 1,000 Christians are currently in detention. The group bases its tally on phone calls to friends and colleagues in the country.

     The jailed Christians are members of unofficial or ‘unregistered’ churches, which are under persistent attack from the regime.

     “Our church leaders who were taken to prison in 2003/2004 have been detained for over 10 years now,” said Release Eritrea director Berhane Asmelash. “Many continue to suffer health problems, although we praise God when we hear reports of their resolute faith and good spirit.”

     The World Watch Monitor reports on the oppression facing Christians in Eritrea...  |  more... |

 

26th May, 2014

BRUNEI'S CHRISTIANS FEAR HARSH ISLAMIC LAW

Brunei's Christians face a potential crackdown after the sultan introduced harsh Islamic punishments, including flogging and stoning to death, but Western nations appear reluctant to intervene.

     "I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the Almighty to announce that (since) Thursday May 1, 2014, we will see the enforcement of Sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases," said Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, leader of the country’s absolute monarchy government for nearly 47 years.

   It is not clear when and if the law will impact commercial relations with key trading partners Netherlands and Britain, despite concerns raised within the United Nations.

    The two countries have a lion’s share of Brunei’s foreign direct investment from the European Union, totalling $US1.2 billion in 2011, according to official estimates.

    STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports on reaction to the phased introduction of Islamic criminal laws in Brunei...  |  more... |

 

19th May, 2014

UKRAINIAN BISHOP RELEASED BY SEPARATISTS; PRESSURE ON CHURCH REMAINS

The national bishop of Ukraine's largest Pentecostal-Charismatic denomination, has been freed after being abducted by suspected pro-Russian separatists, his brother and a mission group leader confirmed on Saturday.

     Bishop Aleksey Demidovich, who leads the Ukrainian Church of God (COG) and co-chairs the Ukrainian Interchurch Council, was reportedly kidnapped on Friday, 16th May, in the city of Slovyansk in the troubled eastern Donetsk region.

     "Militants had seized his church (building) and were using it as a base for their operations," explained Sergey Rakhuba, president of mission group Russian Ministries (RM).

    The bishop's brother, Sergey Demidovich, said "Aleksey" had been released after anxious hours. "They just let him out. Friends, I can't tell everything, but this is not a joke," he added in comments sent to BosNewsLife. "He stayed in an isolation cell for seven hours. They didn't hurt him physically, but we can't release any more details right now."

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports on how ongoing political turmoil in Ukraine is engulfing the church...  |  more... |

 

12th May, 2014

SOUTH SUDAN'S WARRING PARTIES SIGN PEACE AGREEMENT - BUT FIGHTING CONTINUES

A ceasefire agreed to by South Sudan's warring parties last week is already looking shaky with fighting reported in two northern states on Sunday.

     Government and rebel forces both blamed each other for the fighting which followed the signing of a peace agreement on Friday. President Salva Kiir and rebel leader, former Vice-President Riek Machar, had signed the treaty in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, under the terms of which they agreed to halt the fighting by late Saturday.

     The signing of the peace treaty came amid growing international pressure to end five months of fighting in the fledgling nation.

     Among those who had demanded an end to conflict was World Council of Churches' general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit who, following a visit to churches in Juba in early May, said the "senseless war" must stop.

     DAVID ADAMS reports..|  more... |

 

6th May, 2014

ARGENTINA'S FIGHT TO HOLD ONTO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

An Argentinian pastor subjected to death threats says his country is facing a fight to retain its religious freedom.

Marcelo Nieva, 34, leader of Pueblo Grande Baptist Church in Río Tercero, a city in Argentina´s central Cordoba region, says the pressure on his church has increased following the introduction of a law last year that was supposed to safeguard religious freedom but that the pastor says is having the opposite effect.

     "The law is a threat to all Christian freedom in Argentina," Nieva told World Watch Monitor. "At first it is affecting only our church, so people don´t understand the danger of it. But we know how dangerous it is because we are living through it."

    The World Watch Monitor reports...  |  more... |

 

28th April, 2014

EUROPEAN EFFORT TO CONTROL UNOFFICIAL RELIGIOUS GROUPS; HOMESCHOOLING DISARMED

Opponents of a European initiative paving the way for governments to rule on the legitimacy of religious groups and reduce homeschooling rights - thus laying the groundwork for potential persecution of Christians - won a battle this month in the Council of Europe, sources said.
     In Europe, where public education often includes teachings on morality at odds with churches, and officially unrecognised religious groups are labeled “sects,” the stakes were high for religious freedom advocates when resolutions granting European governments latitude to control “sects” and homeschoolers went to a vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) this month.

    Religious rights group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) disseminated a memorandum arguing that the report and resolutions of Rudy Salles, rapporteur of PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, contravened the European Convention on Human Rights and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

   A report from Morning Star News...  |  more... |

 

21st April, 2014

AUTHORITIES IN VIETNAM ALLEGED TO HAVE INCITED VILLAGERS TO ATTACK CHRISTIAN CONVERTS

Inciting social hostility appears to have become a key way government officials in rural Vietnam try to contain, or at least slow, the growth of Christianity among ethnic minorities, sources said.
    Ethnic Hmong Christians were the targets of two incidents the past two months in Vietnam’s northwest. Village officials in Son La Province dragged a couple from their home in late March, and the previous month authorities in neighboring Dien Bien Province incited a mob to beat a Christian family – including a nine-year-old girl – and drive them from the village.

    In the latter case in Dien Bien Dong District, Public Security officers Hang Da Sinh and Cu Ninh Vang recruited some 30 villagers of Trun Phu Village, Na Song Commune, to accompany them to the home of Hang A Khua the evening of 26th February, according to Khua. Backed by an intimidating mob, the officers ordered Khua and his family of nine to recant their Christian faith and immediately and publicly signify their sincerity by re-establishing a family altar and worshipping their ancestors.

     A report from Morning Star News...  |  more... |

 

14th April, 2014

MALATYA MURDER TRIAL POSTPONED AGAIN IN TURKEY

Seven years after three Christians were tortured and killed in southeast Turkey, the Malatya trial’s 93rd hearing has been postponed for another 10 weeks, until 23rd June.

     Under judicial changes enacted last month, the murder trial set to resume on 10th April has been transferred to Malatya’s First High Criminal Court, where a completely new panel of judges and prosecutors are assigned to the case.

     "We are disappointed," one Christian in the small Malatya fellowship said this week. "We do not know what all this means, but it seems very unlikely that the case will finish up this summer."

     Turkey’s 5,000-plus Protestant community had expressed "great sorrow and pain" when the five accused killers were released from prison in early March as part of new legal changes. In a press release, the Association of Protestant Churches deplored "this insensitive and unjust decision," noting that the suspects had repeatedly threatened the victims’ families and lawyers during the court hearings.

     BARBARA G BAKER reports for the World Watch Monitor...  |  more... |

 

7th April, 2014

INDIAN ELECTIONS - WHAT COULD THEY MEAN FOR MINORITY CHRISTIANS?

India is gearing up for the largest show of democracy on earth. Ahead of national elections, the silent Christian community in India - reportedly 2.3 per cent of its 1.2 billion people in 2001, experts say it’s probably at least double that - has become restive and alert.

     An electorate of 814 million - much more than the population of the whole of Europe - is eligible to cast the ballot in the staggered polls (scheduled in nine phases from 7th April to 12th May) to choose India’s 14th Parliament.

The national alliance of all the mainline churches, the National United Christian Forum, has come out with an appeal: the Catholic Church (which accounts for two thirds of the 28 million plus Christians) has issued a voter guideline, and regional ecumenical Christian bodies have also come out with similar advisories in the last few days.

     Two major alliances - the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the ‘secular’ Congress Party (that has ruled the nation for the past two terms) and the National Democratic Alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - are the main protagonists.

     ANTO AKKARA, in a report for World Watch Monitor, reports...  |  more... |

 

31st March, 2014

SPIKE IN EXECUTIONS WORLDWIDE IN 2013 ATTRIBUTED TO "ALARMING" RISES IN IRAN AND IRAQ, SAYS AMNESTY

At least 778 executions were carried out in 2013 - a rise of almost 15 per cent on the previous year - with Amnesty International attributing the spike to the "alarming" numbers of executions carried out in Iran and Iraq.

     In its annual global report on death sentences and executions, the organisation found at least 369 executions were carried out in Iran in 2013 and 169 in Iraq. As in previous years, it noted that the overall number of executions does not include those carried out in China where the organisation estimates thousands are executed each year, noting that "with the death penalty treated as a state secret the lack of reliable data does not allow Amnesty International to publish credible minimum figures for China".
      The report shows executions were carried out in at least 22 countries last year - one more than in 2012 - but that, excluding China, more than 80 per cent of all known executions were carried out in just three countries.

     DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Amnesty International's annual report on where executions are taking place around the globe...  |  more... |

 

25th March, 2014

PAKISTAN UNIVERSITY REFUSES "PROSPEROUS WORK" TO CHRISTIANS, SAYS MP

A public university in Pakistan defies court orders and misleads government authorities to avoid giving federally approved jobs to non-Muslims, a Christian politician in the nation’s ruling party says.

In May 2009 the government passed a law requiring five per cent of jobs to be allocated to religious minorities. The University of Sargodha is located in the Punjab province, where most of the country’s Christians reside, has hired hundreds of employees since this legislation was implemented in 2010 but continues to use bureaucratic tactics to avoid hiring non-Muslims.
      The legislation was created to protect religious minorities and minimise injustice for people applying for government jobs, but state officials are the main hurdle to its implementation. The legislation was initiated by Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian MP who was assassinated three years ago. He had been a prominent figure in the support of Asia Bibi a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed and for seeking amendments to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

     The World Watch Monitor reports...  |  more... |

 

18th March, 2014

UN RAPPORTEUR - IRAN JAILS DOZENS OF EVANGELICALS

Iran has jailed dozens of evangelical Christians, many of whom are converts from Muslim backgrounds, according to a new United Nations report seen by BosNewsLife this week.

     Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said "at least 49 Christians" remained detained "in Islamic Republic of Iran as at January 2014."

     The report came while Iranian Christians told BosNewsLife that authorities in Central Prison in the city of Karaj had confiscated the Bible and several Christian books of jailed evangelical Pastor Behnam Irani.

     Irani, 43, began a one-year prison term in 2011 but was later told he would also have to serve a five-year, previously suspended, sentence for "crimes against national security".

     Christians also expressed concern he may face execution after a court advised such a sentence for alleged "apostasy", or abandoning Islam.

     BosNewsLife reports that a new UN document shows dozens of evangelical Christians have been jailed in Iran with Muslim converts among those particularly highly represented...  |  more... |

11th March, 2014

MEXICAN STATE URGED TO COMPENSATE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS FOR SUFFERING

Christian activists have welcomed a report by the top human rights authority of Mexico's southwestern Oaxaca state which recommends to compensate evangelical Christians for "torture" and damage done to their forcibly closed church building.

     In a report, the Oaxaca State Ombudsman’s Office confirmed what it views as serious religious freedom violations in the municipality of San Juan Ozolotepec where in April 2013 local authorities declared the area a "‘Protestant-free" zone and closed the Pentecostal church with concrete tubes, chains and padlocks.

     The municipal president, Pedro Cruz Gonzalez, reportedly called for the destruction of the church building and demanded that the church members pay fines of some 7,000 Mexican Peso ($US530) for "not being Catholic".

     In November, tensions escalated when Cruz Gonzalez called for the Protestants to be lynched, imprisoned and tortured, Christians said. Four men associated with the church were reportedly arbitrarily detained and tortured and only released after state and federal intervention.

     BosNewsLife reports on reactions to a report recommended evangelical Christians in Mexico's Oaxaca state be compensated for "torture" and damage done to buildings...  |  more... |

 

4th March, 2014

ANDRA PRADESH IS INDIA'S EMERGING HOTBED OF ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE

Church leaders in India are alarmed over a dramatic increase in attacks on Christians in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where in recent weeks one pastor has been murdered, others beaten, and churches demolished.
      The All India Christian Council documented 72 incidents of anti-Christian violence and hostility in Andhra Pradesh in 2013, nearly double the 39 recorded in 2012. Today the state, India’s fifth-most populous, has the country’s highest rate of anti-Christian incidents, according to the All India Christian C   ouncil.

     “The jump from 39 incidents in 2012 to 72 incidents in 2013 is alarming, and the reasons for this escalated growth on the Christian minorities is the culmination of every effort of the right-wing political party to woo the majority of the communal agenda in the coming election of 2014,” Moses Vatipalli, a project coordinator for the All India Christian Council, told WWM.

     The World Watch Monitor reports on growing concerns over violence in the Indian state of Andra Pradesh...  |  more... |

 


24th February, 2014

KENYAN CLERGY PROTEST PAY-TO-PREACH LAW

Three hundred bishops in Central Kenya confronted a county governor earlier this month to protest against a new bill that could see clergy charged for preaching outside of their churches.
      The bishops, who say they represent as many as 1,200 churches within Nyeri County, marched to the governor’s office on 12th February to protest against the Nyeri County Finance Bill, which includes a section on charging preachers for speaking in public.

     The bill, which, as of 18th February, was yet to be debated by the local government or signed by the county governor, states that clergy must pay 10,000 Kenyan Shillings (approximately $AUD129) per day to preach inside a stadium, 8,000 KES ($AUD103) outside a stadium and 5,000 ($AUD65) in rural areas.

     Charles Muchiri, priest of St Peter’s Catholic Church in Ruiru, near Nairobi, and chairman of the 300 bishops, said that churches should not be commercialised and treated like businesses, and that the bill would leave clergy dependent upon funds to reach beyond their churches.

     JULIUS MBALUTO, of World Watch Monitor, reports...  |  more... |

 

17th February, 2014

CHRISTIANS KILLED IN SUDAN BOMBINGS

The Sudanese Air Force bombed more civilians in South Kordofan state last week, killing a Christian man and injuring a 13-year-old girl, an area source said.
      As part of what area Christians believe is President Omar al-Bashir’s campaign to rid the country of Christianity and the ethnic Nuba people, a government jet on Monday, 10th February, dropped three bombs on Damardago village, killing a Christian identified only as 30-year-old Timotuos, the source said.

     Timotuos was a member of the Sudanese Church of Christ, as are two others who sustained burns and other injuries in the bombing, 13-year-old Zaienab Jebril Turomba and 27-year-old Salim Kuku, according to the source, who requested anonymity. There is no military installation near the area, but Sudan has been bombing civilian populations it believes support the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) since 2011.

     Morning Star News reports on ongoing aerial bombings in Sudan...  |  more... |

 

10th February, 2014

MANY INJURED IN BOSNIA'S WORST UNREST SINCE WAR

Violent anti-government protests are spreading throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina with reports that more than 150 people have been injured in the worst unrest since the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

   There are shouts of joy as protesters set fire to government buildings, expressing frustration over years of political stagnation and massive unemployment in this ethnically divided nation.

In the northern town of Tuzla, an industrial hub where the unrest began, masked youths could be seen torching the seat of the local authority.

   Elsewhere in the nation's capital Sarajevo protesters stormed the presidency building and other government offices, setting them ablaze and smashing furniture.

     With unemployment at 44 per cent and one in five people living below the poverty line, Bosnians are furious at the authorities' failure to address the country's economic situation.

    STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

3rd February, 2014

EUROPEAN ARMS SALES TO MIDDLE EAST REACH RECORD LEVEL

European Union countries licensed arms exports in 2012 valued at €39.9 billion, according to newly released figures. This included a record €9.7 billion in sales to the Middle East – a 22 per cent increase on sales in the previous year.

    The statistics are revealed in the Fifteenth Annual Report on Control of Exports of Military Technology and Equipment.

    The European Network Against the Arms Trade (ENAA) says that the figures show little change in arms export policy, despite the Arab Spring and the violent suppression of protests in many of the countries concerned.

    Overall, 47,868 arms export licences were applied for in 2012 by all EU countries. Of these, only 459 were refused. While 4,705 licences were granted to sell arms to the Middle East, only 100 were refused.

   Ekklesia reports...  |  more... |

 

28th January, 2014

TUNISIAN CONSTITUTION FINDS NO PLACE FOR SHARIA

Three years after the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ started in Tunisia, the country’s National Constituent Assembly is close to passing a new constitution which rejects Islam as the “main source of law”, but states it is the state’s duty to “protect the sacred”.
    The new constitution, which has taken two years to conclude, comes almost three years to the day since the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, itself 10 days after the death of a Tunisian vegetable seller, which began the movement that would sweep across North Africa and into the Middle East.

    Tunisians were promised that their long-awaited constitution would be ready by the third anniversary.

Since the revolution of 2011, the question of whether the state would be seen as the “protector of the sacred” has caused great controversy between Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party which came to power after the first post-Ben Ali general election (and which still leads the interim government), and the broadly secular opposition.

  The World Watch Monitor reports on why some Tunisians have welcomed a new constitution - and why others have not...  |  more... |

 

20th January, 2014

UKRAINE GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO BAN CHURCH AMID PROTESTS

Ukraine's government has threatened to outlaw the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) for holding prayer services with opposition protesters.

     Amid public pressure, President Viktor Yanukovich later pledged to respect religious rights. His office quoted him as saying "People must have a right to pray wherever they wish."

     Yet his office acknowledged that "current legislation provides for the necessity of the official permission for a worship service unless it is held in a specially designated place."

     And, despite Yanukovich promise to soften legislation, uncertainty remained last Friday as his supporters voted for controversial legislation banning mass protests, including those where priests have been praying.

     The law makes blockading public buildings punishable by up to five years imprisonment, while those wearing masks or helmets face a fine or an administrative arrest.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

15th January, 2014

TENSIONS REMAIN IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

The Central African Republic’s first Muslim President Michel Djotodia stepped down Friday in a bid to calm the tensions threatening to rip the nation from its moorings.

     In the wake of the move, widespread looting and violence were reported in the capital, Bangui, even as Djotodia fled to Benin.

     However, is a vacuum in leadership the best thing for peace in a post-coup African nation? Jim Snyder serves in crisis response for ReachGlobal Africa. He says, “His departure from office is really not providing any particular solution, but it is moving us closer to the potential for some reprieve in the country.”

     Snyder adds that Djotodia was originally put in office by the Muslim Seleka movement that orchestrated a coup out of Chad in March. Now, “The next step would be that there would be a leader that would be appointed by some sort of committee that has been put in place. So until that happens, there’s really not going to be any movement forward.”

     Mission Network News reports...  |  more... |

 

7th January, 2014

CHRISTIANS FEAR LIBYA'S ISLAMIC LAWS

Minority Christians in Libya have begun the New Year with concern after parliament voted to make sharia, or Islamic law, the source of all legislation.

      A special committee has begun reviewing existing laws to ensure that they comply with sharia, BosNewsLife learned Sunday, 5th January.

     Last month's vote was seen by Christians as an attempt to counter criticism from "militant Islamists", who called some of the country’s lawmakers "un-Islamic".

     Advocacy group Barnabas Fund, which supports Christians in Islamic nations, expressed concern about growing influence of Islamists.

     After the 'Arab Spring' pro-freedom demonstrations toppled autocratic leaders across the Arab world, it "initially appeared that Islamists had not gained the upper hand in Libya as they had done in Tunisia or Egypt," the group noted.

     BosNewsLife reports on concerns among Libya's minority Christians after parliament votes in favour of Islamic law...  |  more... |

 

31st December, 2013

PASTORS IN WEST JAVA, INDONESIA, STRUGGLE WITH CHURCH CLOSURES

Two days before Christmas, Rev Titus, a pastor in Cimahi, West Java who goes by a single name, was initially too upset to discuss the events that led to the closure of his church.
      The usually jovial and open pastor of Isa Almasih Church (Gereja Isa Almasih, or GIA) on Kalasan Street said he had become suspicious of all people, including the reporter who came from Jakarta to meet him.

     “The Bandung policemen always phone me,” he told Morning Star News. “I am afraid of my own shadow.”

The Cimahi municipal government sealed the church building, located in a housing subdivision, on 13th December with a sign hanging on the gateway stating, “This building is for a residence and may not be used for worship services or similar activities.”
      Church officials had long ago applied for a permit, with the application delayed in bureaucracy without explanation, as commonly happens to Christian attempts in Indonesia. The building had been used for worship for decades, though, without any objection from the surrounding community.

     A report from Morning Star News...  |  more... |

 

16th December, 2013

UKRAINIAN CHRISTIANS PRAY AS 200,000 RALLY AGAINST GOVERNMENT

Ukrainian Christians continued to pray around the clock in a special prayer tent at the capital Kyiv's Independence Square where as many as 200,000 people rallied on Sunday against the government and for European Union integration.

     Missionaries told BosNewsLife that the prayer initiative is part of a wider Christian effort to "share the Gospel" in this volatile former Soviet nation.

     "In the midst of violence and instability, Christians continue to show up at the protests daily, praying 24/7 in a prayer tent on the square, distributing Scriptures and talking to people, providing food and warm clothing to those in need," said Russian Ministries, a major mission group in the former Soviet Union.

     It comes amid Christian concern about tensions in the capital where several people were injured after a police crackdown on Ukrainians who have been bracing freezing temperatures for several weeks.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

9th December, 2013

CHURCHES CALL FOR EUROPE TO ADOPT "COMMON APPROACH" TO SYRIAN REFUGEES

The Conference of European Churches has called for European states to adopt a common approach to Syrian refugees, saying all Syrian nationals "should be allowed entry; treated as presumptively in need of international protection; and given full, immediate access to fair and effective asylum procedures".

     In a statement issued by the CEC's governing board last week following a late November meeting in Geneva, the churches body also urged European States to follow the UNHCR´s "appeal for a global moratorium on any return of Syrians to neighbouring countries" and for immigration detention not be used except in "exceptional circumstances".

     The statement also called on European states to consider the "possibility of the practical expression of solidarity between European States in refugee protection" by taking actions such as offering to relocate refugees from countries "facing difficulties to cope with the influx of persons seeking protection".

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

2nd December, 2013

HOPE DIMS FOR RELIGIOUS RIGHTS IN IRAN WITH SANCTIONS DEAL

As Western powers prepare to ease economic sanctions against Iran in support of a new nuclear non-proliferation treaty, human rights activists say leverage for winning freedom for prisoners of faith may about to be lost.
      A human rights advocate and researcher who monitors Iran for Christian Solidarity Worldwide said his colleagues in different human rights groups were concerned when they found out that there was no talk of human rights during negotiations with Iran, specifically about the release of prisoners of faith. In the quest to obtain some sort of agreement this month with the Iranians, they said, the pursuit of basic rights for Christians and other religious minorities was set aside.

     “When negotiations (with the Iranians) take place, human rights has to be on the agenda,” said the advocate, whose name cannot be released because of his work in the region. “Otherwise, if you give all these concessions over to Iran, they have no motivation or reason to do anything about human rights.”

     In a report from Morning Star News, advocates say the chance to bring human rights to the negotiating table was missed during recent negotiations between Western powers and Iran...  |  more... |

 

25th November, 2013

UN SECRETARY GENERAL WARNS CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC IS "SPIRALLING INTO ANARCHY"

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said last week that anarchy in the Central African Republic risks spiralling further out of control, and could need up to 9,000 peacekeepers.
      In a report Ki-moon commissioned, due to be debated at the UN today, his adviser expresses alarm about increasing retaliatory attacks between Muslim and Christian groups. The report calls on the UN Security Council to act urgently on the crisis.

     The Security Council is due to meet today at France’s request, to decide whether to create a UN peacekeeping force for the area. Ki-moon said on Monday the UN is preparing to deploy peacekeepers to CAR eventually, but that the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) first want a chance to try to combat the crisis.

     A report from the World Watch Monitor on the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic...  |  more... |

 

18th November, 2013

CHINA DETAINS DOZENS OF CHURCH WORKERS, PASTOR

A major Christian church in China's central Henan province was "paralysed" on Sunday after its pastor, his sisters and dozens of church workers were detained, local Christians told BosNewsLife.

     "Up to now a total of more than 20 workers of the Nanle County Christian Church were arrested," said Zhang Yuenyuen, the daughter of detained Pastor Zhang Xiaoje.

     "Because all the church workers are caught, my sister and I fled and are in hiding," she told BosNewsLife in translated remarks. Yuenyuen suggested that the number of detained believers may be higher, but said the exact figure was difficult to determine yet.

     The detentions began on Saturday, when Pastor Zhang was surrounded by a dozen policemen, Christians said.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

11th November, 2013

BOKO HARAM CRIPPLES CHRISTIANITY IN AREAS OF NIGERIA'S BORNO STATE

Islamic extremist Boko Haram insurgents have driven thousands of Christians from areas of Borno state, with some of those remaining unable to hold worship services, church leaders said.
      Boko Haram attacks that killed at least 150 members of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, or EYN) in the past 10 months have caused 8,000 Christians to flee, EYN leaders said.

     “Most of our church members affected by these attacks have fled to other communities, and they are in desperate need for help,” said Rev Daniel Yumuna, Jos district secretary for the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.
      Militants from the Islamic extremist group destroyed 15 places of worship belonging to EYN, which is the dominant denomination in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in northeastern Nigeria with 180,000 members.

     The World Watch Monitor reports on the ongoing attacks on Christians in Nigeria...  |  more... |

 

4th November, 2013

SUDAN ACCUSED OF HELPING MUSLIM BUSINESSMAN SEIZE PROPERTY FROM CHURCH

After months of bulldozing or taking over church buildings on the pretext that they belong to South Sudanese who are no longer citizens of the country, authorities are aiding a Muslim businessman’s effort to take over church property in Khartoum North, sources said.
      Sudan’s police and security forces broke through the fence of Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church this month, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to the Muslim investor accompanying them, sources said.

     As Muslims nearby shouted, “Allahu Akbar (God is greater),” plainclothes police and personnel from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on 5th October broke onto the property aboard a truck and two Land Cruisers. After beating several Christians who were in the compound, they arrested some of them as well as Pastor Dawood Fadul of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC); they were all released later that day.

     Morning Star News reports on hardships faced by Christians in Sudan...  |  more... |

 

28th October, 2013

EVANGELICAL LUTHERANS OPPOSE US FOOD CUTS HITTING THE POOREST

In an effort to ensure that families across the United States receive adequate access to food, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are asking members of Congress to oppose the proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

     The proposed changes to the SNAP programme would cut or eliminate benefits for millions of people at a time when high unemployment and underemployment rates mean that families struggle to put food on the table, according to an October ELCA advocacy alert.

     “Part of what we do through ELCA World Hunger is to advocate for adequate and full funding of essential programmes like SNAP, because we know we can and must engage the issue in multiple ways,” said Mikka McCracken, programme director for ELCA World Hunger constituent engagement.

     Ekklesia reports...  |  more... |

 

21st October, 2013

ESSAY: SHOCKED BUT NOT SURPRISED - COURT IN MALAYSIA BANS NON-MUSLIMS FROM USING 'ALLAH'

The ruling last week by an appeals court in Malaysia to ban non-Muslims from using the word Allah to refer to God is shocking but not surprising.

     Borrowed from the Arabic like other words in the Malay language, Allah is the common word for God in Malay Bibles. The word predates Islam, and Christians in Malaysia have pointed out that if the ruling is to be enforced, their very Bibles will have to be discarded. The appeals court ruled that if use of Allah is not exclusive to Muslims, it will cause “public disorder.”

     Thus the ruling manages to simultaneously violate both freedom of speech and freedom of religion – shocking to Western ears, but not surprising.

     The editor of Morning Star News writes that a decision to ban the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims violates both freedom of speech and freedom of religion...  |  more... |

 

14th October, 2013

UN-BACKED SUMMIT WARNS OF GLOBAL WATER SHORTAGES

Representatives from more than 100 United Nations member states and organisations have appealed to world leaders to urgently tackle expected water scarcity around the world. They made the recommendations in a declaration adopted at the UN-backed Budapest Water Summit.

     The gathering in Hungary's capital was held amid concerns over possible future conflicts over water.

Some 1,300 delegates, ranging from princes and presidents to church officials, science, youth and business leaders, adopted the Budapest Water Summit Statement amid concerns that billions of people around the world will soon face severe water shortages.

     The document, adopted after four days of talks, makes policy recommendations to ensure a water secure world.

Suggestions include coordinated water management to achieve universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation especially in the growing refugee camps as well as households, schools, health facilities and workplaces.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports from Hungary...  |  more... |

 

7th October, 2013

PROMISED LEGAL REFORMS DISAPPOINT TURKEY'S RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

The Turkish government’s long-awaited “democratisation package” of reform laws announced this week has met with considerable disappointment among Turkey’s minority religious communities.
      Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed last Monday (30th September) a broad array of reform laws, drafted by his ruling Justice and Development Party for parliamentary debate and approval.

Although public focus remained on legal changes in the Kurdish resolution process, electoral reform and lifting the headscarf ban in public offices, there were some positive, if symbolic, steps affecting the nation’s non-Muslim communities.

     But without question, the religious minorities were expecting more tangible changes to correct their status as second-class citizens: most prominently, the re-opening of the Orthodox Church’s Halki Seminary, along with recognition of the Alevis as a distinct faith community.

     BARBARA G BAKER, of World Watch Monitor, reports that reform laws announced by Turkey's government last week did go far enough for the country's religious minorities...  |  more... |

 

30th September, 2013

BUDDHIST NATIONALISM FUELS ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS IN SRI LANKA

Persecution of Christians is rising in Sri Lanka, where at least three attacks took place this month as the government promoted Buddhist nationalism to maintain its hold on power.
      The Buddhist-majority South Asian country has seen a surge of violence against religious minorities, including Christians and Muslims, while the government has merely looked on, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Navi Pillay said last Wednesday, presenting a report based on her recent fact-finding visit to Sri Lanka, according to Reuters.

     Pillay’s report, which blasts President Mahinda Rajapaksa for authoritarian rule since his government’s military victory over Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in 2009, comes on the heels of this month’s attacks on and intimidation of Christians.

     Morning Star News reports on the worsening situation for religious minority groups - including Christians - in Sri Lanka...  |  more... |

 

23rd September, 2013

TERROR ATTACKS IN NIGERIA KILL 160; CHRISTIANS TARGETED

At least 160 have died in terrorist related violence last week in Nigeria’s Yobe and Borno States, following other deadly anti-Christian attacks across the troubled African nation, activists and other sources said.

     In one of the latest known attacks, fighters of the Islamic Boko Haram group armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket launchers and homemade explosives reportedly raided Yadi Buni Town in Yobe State on 18th September, setting fire to a makeshift police station, telecommunications masts, parts of the local government headquarters and the home of the divisional police head, whose wife was burnt to death inside the building.

     The son of the Yobe People's Democratic Party's (PDP) youth leader is also said to have been killed, while one soldier and nine sect members died in an ensuing shoot-out.

     BosNewsLife reports on yet more violence in Nigeria...  |  more... |

 

16th September, 2013

RELIGIOUS REPRESSION CARRIES ON UNABATED IN TURKMENISTAN

Turkmenistan has been one of the most repressive countries in the world for over two decades, as key international actors continue to sideline the issue of religious and other freedoms due to their thirst for cheap energy. This Muslim-majority Central Asian nation possesses the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas resources.

     Like some other countries in this region, Turkmenistan is “reminiscent of the old Soviet Union” as it commits serious human rights violations, “particularly through enacting and enforcing laws against freedom of religion or belief,” Katrina Lantos Swett and M Zuhdi Jasser, vice-chairs of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), wrote in an op-ed article in The Moscow Times recently.

     On 29th August, Forum 18 reported that police raided a children’s summer camp run by a Baptist church on its own premises in the south-eastern town of Mary. Police and other officials, including a cameraman, questioned the children, took food samples, ordered the camp closed and handed down two fines, it said.

     FERNANDO PEREZ, writing for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, takes a look at ongoing religious repression in Turkmenistan...  |  more... |

 

9th September, 2013

CHRISTIANS IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC VULNERABLE AS CHAOS CONTINUES

More than five months after Islamist rebels seized control of the Christian-majority Central African Republic (CAR), Christians remain vulnerable to atrocities and the threat of imposition of Islamic law.
      Rebel groups and Islamist mercenaries from Chad and Sudan joined forces in December to form a militant coalition called Seleka, which took the capital, Bangui, on 24th March and sent then-President Francois Bozize into exile in Cameroon. Seleka Islamist leader Michel Djotodia took over as president.

     “It is clear, according to our research, that it is Christians who have been suffering under Seleka rule and Muslims have been profiting,” Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in an email to Morning Star News from the lawless country last week, adding that Seleka agents “have not hesitated to attack Christian places of worship.”

     Morning Star News reports on the worrying situation for Christians in the Central African Republic...  |  more... |

 

3rd September, 2013

NEW LAW IN BOLIVIA AIMS TO CONTROL CHURCHES, IMPOSE BELIEFS, PROTESTANT LEADERS SAY

Protestant church leaders in Bolivia are trying to revoke a new law they say aims to “impose contrary beliefs” and “denies us the right to be a church.”

     Asserting that Law 351 is unconstitutional, the National Association of Evangelicals of Bolivia (ANDEB) intended filing suit last week before the Plurinational Legislative Assembly demanding that it be revoked; Christian leaders argue its re-registration requirements restrict the “rights and religious freedoms of churches.”
    “This would force churches to betray their true ecclesiastical traditions,” Ruth Montaño, legal advisor and former board member of ANDEB told Morning Star News. “The measure deprives them of any autonomy to follow their original faith convictions.”
      The law stipulates a standardised administrative structure for all “religious organisations” that church groups must adopt.

     “This would force churches to betray their true ecclesiastical traditions,” Ruth Montaño, legal advisor and former board member of ANDEB told Morning Star News. “The measure deprives them of any autonomy to follow their original faith convictions.”

     Morning Star News reports on concerns over legal changes in Bolivia...  |  more... |

 

26th August, 2013

CHRISTIANS IN INDIA TENSE AS 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF ODISHA BLOODSHED PASSES

The Christian community in India's troubled Odisha state is this weekend marking the fifth anniversary of what was the country's worst anti-Christian violence on record amid fears of more violence in the area.

     At least 90 people were killed and 54,000 displaced in the 2008 clashes in the state's Kandhamal district, after decades of anti-Christian hate speech and smaller scale attacks by Hindu groups opposing the spread of Christianity.

     "Against the backdrop of a rising number of acquittals of perpetrators of the 2008 violence, the Christian community still faces harassment and violence," said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

     Five years on from the worst anti-Christian violence in India, BosNewsLife takes a look at what has happened since to the perpetrators amid reports that Christians are still facing violence and harassment...  |  more... |

 

19th August, 2013

ESSAY: WHAT CAUSED SYRIA'S CIVIL WAR?

Throughout its history, ancient and modern, Syria has played host to ethnic and religious minorities living together very much in harmony.

     Syria, in the original sense of what is now known as "Greater Syria", encompassed much of the Levant – today's states of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, plus a portion of Turkey. This is the cradle of the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam; two were born in Syria, and Islam found its way there very early in its existence.

     Its geopolitical position brought Syria to the attention of many different superpowers and, sadly, it has often been a battleground for these foreign powers. Throughout millennia of occupation and recent decades of independence, the minorities in Syria have always stayed true to their homeland: they played a major role in the liberation from the Ottomans after more than 500 years of oppression, and from the French Mandate in the twentieth century, leading to independence in 1946.
     Christians, Druze, Alawites, Kurds and other, smaller minorities worked hand-in-hand with the majority Sunnis to secure the liberation of Syria from all foreign occupation.

     In an article published by the World Watch Monitor, Rev NADIM NASSAR - director of UK-based Awareness Foundation, gives his view on what led to the civil war being fought in Syria...  |  more... |

 

12th August, 2013

BOKO HARAM UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

At least 1,200 people have been killed in the last four years in Northern Nigeria by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, according to a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court.

     The court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said last Monday that the ICC is investigating Boko Haram for “crimes against humanity” through “widespread and systematic attacks”, the scale and intensity of which have increased over time.

     The initial ICC report is based on statistics leading up to December 2012. The ICC is now considering whether it merits further investigation.

     The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, tries cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide when a country's own courts fail to prosecute. Nigeria agreed in 2001 to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

     The World Watch Monitor reports on moves to bring militant Islamist group Boko Haram to account...  |  more... |

 

5th August, 2013

PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS STILL WAITING FOR JUSTICE ON 4TH ANNIVERSARY OF GOJRA MURDERS

The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an interdenominational organisation working for religious freedom in Pakistan, is calling for justice four years to the day since a horrific attack on the Christian town of Gojra in Pakistan.

     It was on 1st August, 2009, that a Muslim mob went on the rampage in the town, burning eight people to death, including children, and torching dozens of homes. The attack was triggered by reports that local Christians had desecrated the Koran, a crime punishable by life imprisonment under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

     “Some eyewitnesses claimed that the police stood by and ignored pleas for help from the Christians as the attack unfolded. In the immediate aftermath, there were promises that the perpetrators would be caught and punished,” a spokesperson for CLAAS-UK told the ASSIST News Service. “Yet no one has ever been brought to justice for the crime and Christians are wondering if anyone ever will.”

     DAN WOODING, of ASSIST News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

29th July, 2013

IN NIGERIA, BOKO HARAM'S LEADERS DISAGREE AS CIVILIANS JOIN THE FIGHT

Cracks are showing in the Boko Haram's theoretical armor as top leaders disagree.

"Shekau speaks his own opinion," Boko Haram deputy leader Muhammad Marwana told Voice of America earlier this week. He's referring to fellow leader Abubakara Imam Shekau's denial of ceasefire agreements with the government.

     According to VOA, Marwana also urged Nigerians to reject any of Shekau's statements, especially as they relate to attacks.

     "Behind the scenes, Boko Haram is not necessarily a united force where everyone is on the same page," says Todd Nettleton, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA. "There are those who say, 'Yes, let's make a deal with the government; let's sign a cease-fire agreement.'

     "There are those who say, 'No, we'll fight to the death. We're not going to sign anything; we're not going to give any ground.'"

     Mission Network News talks to Voice of the Martyr's Todd Nettleton about the politics within Islamic militant group Boko Haram...  |  more... |

 

22nd July, 2013

WORLD ABANDONS CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC IN HOUR OF NEED, SAYS MSF

International health NGO Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) says the population of the Central African Republic has been “abandoned” to a humanitarian emergency “just when they most need help”, and that the country’s healthcare system has collapsed.

     With most NGOs and aid agencies withdrawing to the capital Bangui, citing security concerns, MSF said in a 9th July report that the international community has failed to do enough to end the country’s crisis.

Several Christian organisations in the country have attempted to provide help, even as some have been looted by rebels.

     The republic was plunged into chaos after a rebel coalition called Séléka overthrew the regime of François Bozizé in March, forcing him to flee the country. Numerous acts of violence by the rebels have created a climate of tension and fear across the country. The International Federation for Human Rights reports that Seleka rebels have been accused of more than 400 killings since the rebel group came to power.

     A report from the World Watch Monitor on the deteriorating situation in the Central African Republic...  |  more... |

 

17th July, 2013

IN KENYA, CHRISTIAN PRESIDENT SEEKS GOD'S COVERING FOR THE NATION

Kenya has been a nation struggling with issues that have tried to divide it, with Islamic terrorists killing Christians with increasing frequency. Muslims have tried to shut down Christian gatherings and houses of worship, especially near the country’s borders with Somalia.

     Prior to the past presidential election on 4th March, “there has been great opposition from the Islamic agenda against the Christian Church,” says Dr Sammy Ngaho, founder and president of Ngaho International Ministries.               “Through much prayer and faith all over the country, all resistance is coming down,” Dr Ngaho says.

     “The election in March was the first peaceful election in over 50 years - with no bloodshed,” he notes. “This is all because of what God did to answer prayer as we had very organised prayer across the entire country. Every county was fasting and praying. Every county was formally dedicated to God and an altar to God was planted there as well.”

     MELISSA NORDELL and MARK ELLIS report in an article first published on Godreports...  |  more... |

 

9th July, 2013

IN UGANDA, CHRISTIAN CONVERTS FROM ISLAM FACE HARDSHIPS

Even in Christian-majority Uganda, two former sheikhs (Muslim teachers) and a mother of seven are struggling to recover from the fury Islamic extremists unleashed on them for converting.
      Senior Pastor/Bishop Umar Mulinde of Gospel Life Church International outside Kampala has begun facial reconstruction after assailants who shouted “Allahu Akbar (God is greater)” cast acid on him on Christmas Eve 2011, while Christian school founder Hassan Muwanguzi of eastern Uganda is homeless and facing death threats from Islamic extremists who burned down his house.

     “Acid damaged my face beyond what we had initially thought,” Mulinde recently wrote to Morning Star News from Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer (near Tel Aviv), Israel, “causing a very terrible wound, nearly cutting off my head, right eye, ear, nose and causing serious deforming scars, but praise God that He helped me to get good medication and prayers of the saints worldwide, otherwise I almost died.”

     Morning Star News reports on the extreme hardships faced by Muslims who convert to Christianity in Uganda...  |  more... |

 

1st July, 2013

ESSAY: AFTER PERSECUTION FOR FAITH, A RARE RELIGIOUS RIGHTS SUCCESS IN VIETNAM

Vietnamese authorities in Kontum Province last month resettled four severely persecuted ethnic Sedang Christian families on new land not far from where their homes and farms had been destroyed last February. This is a rare, positive government response to persecution and an important step in the struggle for religious liberty - if it becomes a precedent.
      In mid-February five Sedang minority families in Ngoc La village, Tumorong District, who had become Christians about a year earlier, suffered nightly raids on their homes and fields by local people, animists who strongly opposed their conversion and tried to force them to recant Christianity. First their personal and household possessions were wantonly destroyed; next their houses were damaged beyond use; finally, thousands of coffee plants and fruit trees in their fields, ready to yield crops, were cut down and destroyed. During the raids, some members of the families were beaten, and all were terrorised and forced to flee into the forest under threat of death.

     A report from Morning Star News on the Vietnamese Government's positive response to an incident of religious persecution...  |  more... |

 

24th June, 2013

ALBANIAN ELECTIONS MARRED BY DEADLY VIOLENCE

Albania's Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his Socialist rival Edi Rama both claimed victory in parliamentary elections that were overshadowed by violence in which at least one person died.

     An opposition activist was killed in an apparently politically motivated shooting during Sunday's vote that observers said could determine whether one of Europe's poorest countries has a chance of joining the European Union.
Albanian police said 53-year Socialist activist Gjon Gjoni died "after being shot in an exchange of fire" with the candidate of the rival governing Democratic Party.

     Candidate Mhill Fufi, who is 49, and other man were injured in the clashes near a polling station in the city of Lac, outside the capital Tirana, police said.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports on the recent election in Albania...  |  more... |

 

17th June, 2013

'MODERATE' CANDIDATE ROUHANI WINS IRAN ELECTIONS

The only presidential candidate who pledged to work for religious minorities has won Iran's presidential elections, first results showed.

     With over half of the votes counted moderate Hassan Rouhani was leading with some 51 per cent of the ballots cast.

     "Only presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani has promised to work for minorities, including Christians," said Firouz Khandjani, a key official of the Church of Iran, a major house church movement.

     "We prayed for the election and we believe that this is a good result even if we understand that he cannot bring magical solutions," Mr Khandjani told BosNewsLife in a first reaction.

     BosNewsLife reports on the result of the recent Iranian elections - and what it may mean for Christians there...  |  more... |

 

11th June, 2013

THE RISE OF ISLAMIC EXTREMISM IN CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CAUCASUS

Islamic extremism in Central Asia and the Caucasus will further increase in the next few years, predicts a new report by Anna Münster, a Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House.

     US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, and expected regime changes in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan threaten to destabilise the region, providing radicals with a platform from which to operate, claims Growing Islamic Extremism in Central Asia and the Caucasus – Situation and Outlook.
      The situation is further complicated, writes Dr Münster, by the ‘New Great Game’ unfolding in Central Asia – part two of the ‘Great Game’ of the 19th and early 20th centuries, during which time Britain and Russia vied for power within the region.

     The report, written for the World Watch List, traces the roots of Islam within Central Asia and the Caucasus to Dagestan (a republic of Russia, in the North Caucasus) in the seventh century, although the religion has since taken a variety of different shapes in different countries.

     The World Watch Monitor looks at a new report by Chatham House Fellow, Dr Anna Münster...  |  more... |

 

3rd June, 2013

IN ERITREA, PERSECUTION "GREATER THAN EVER AND GETTING WORSE"

Religious persecution in Eritrea is at its “highest level ever and getting worse”, an Eritrean Christian leader, who cannot be named for security reasons, has told the Christian charity Open Doors International.
     Thirty-seven Christian students from the College of Arts and Social Sciences in the town of Adi Kihe, and five men from the Church of the Living God in Asmara, were arrested recently, taking the total number of Christians known to have been arrested this year to 191.

    Open Doors, a ministry to Christians who live under pressure because of their faith, estimates around 1,200 Christians are now incarcerated in Eritrea. However, some estimates claim the figure to be as high as 3,000.

     Churches in Eritrea have been monitored closely since May 2002, when the government closed all Protestant and Pentecostal churches which did not apply for registration with the Department of Religious Affairs.

     The World Watch Monitor writes about reports of increasing religious persecution in Eritrea...  |  more... |

 

27th May, 2013

EGYPT AT A CROSSROADS, SAYS COPTIC BISHOP

A “big force” is pushing Egypt towards greater conservatism and religious extremism, according to Bishop Thomas of the El-Qussia and Mair Diocese in Upper Egypt.
      However, he said he still believes Egypt can enjoy transformation of a different kind – towards true democracy, gender equality and religious tolerance.

     The bishop, speaking in London last Tuesday (21st May), said that in the two years since President Hosni Mubarak’s deposition, Egypt has enjoyed improved freedom of speech, and until that freedom is taken away, he said there will always be hope.

     “Since the revolution, people are able to talk; people are able to express themselves; people dare to say their opinion,” said Bishop Thomas. “And this is a great step that has happened within society. The day that Egypt and Egyptian people will not be able to talk, then I would lose hope. But I hope this day will not come.”

     Egypt's Bishop Thomas talks about his hopes for his country in a report by STEVE DEW-JONES, of World Watch Monitor...  |  more... |

 

20th May, 2013

IRAQI CHRISTIANS SUFFER AS VIOLENCE KILLS 140

Minority Christians were among those suffering after at least 140 people died during four consecutive days of violence in Iraq, raising fears that sectarian conflicts could lead the troubled Middle East nation into civil war.

     "It is difficult to tell of the intensity of violence here over the past week," said Canon Andrew White, who leads the St George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, the capital. "The slaughters and massacres have intensified so much that the sound of explosions has almost become the norm," he added in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife.

     "At first the attacks were all against the Shia by the Sunni (Muslims), but on Friday we saw a major Shia response against the Sunni with over one hundred Sunnis being killed as they left their mosques."

     More than 70 people were reportedly killed in bombings on Friday, 17th May, in majority Sunni districts in Baghdad and surrounding areas, in what media called "the deadliest day in Iraq" in more than eight months.

     A report from BosNewsLife (with STEFAN J BOS) on the recent escalation of violence in Iraq...  |  more... |

 

13th May, 2013

BURMA, CHINA, IRAN AND NORTH KOREA ON US LIST OF WORST ABUSERS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Countries including Burma, China, Iran and North Korea should retain their position as "countries of particular concern" with regard to religious freedom, according to the latest report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, while seven other countries - including Egypt and Nigeria - should also be designated as such.

     Released in late April, the latest annual report from the USCIRF - an independent federal advisory body to the US Government - looks at the state of religious freedom across the globe and highlights governments deemed to be "egregious violators".

     It recommended that the US Secretary of State John Kerry redesignate eight countries - Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan - as being "countries of particular concern" or CPCs.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on the findings of the latest annual report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom highlighting some of the world's worst abusers of religious freedom...  |  more... |

 

6th May, 2013

MISSIONARIES INCREASE ACTIVITIES IN RUSSIA'S CAUCASUS AFTER BOSTON BOMBINGS

Christian missionaries say they have stepped up efforts to spread the "Gospel of peace and hope" in Russia's volatile North Caucasus after revelations that the suspected Boston Marathon bombers arrived from that region.

Russian Ministries, a major mission group, said the apparent acts of terrorism by the Tsarnaev brothers underscored that "radical Islam is making every possible effort to capture the hearts and minds of the younger generation."

     In April, the US Embassy in Moscow said it has sent a team to Dagestan, a province in southern Russia where the parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are staying.

     Information from the parents is seen as crucial in the investigation. The Tsarnaev brothers are accused of setting off the bombs on 15th April that killed three people and wounded more than 180 others.

     BosNewsLife reports on how Russian Ministries are reaching young people in the North Caucasus region in the wake of the Boston bombings...  |  more... |

 

29th April, 2013

ROLE OF CHURCHES IN REBUILDING SUDAN UNDERLINED IN VISIT BY CHURCHES HEAD

Churches play an important role in the rebuilding of Sudan after years of conflict, the head of the World Council of Churches said during a visit to the country last week.

     Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, said as citizens of Sudan, Christians have "an important role in assisting the rebuilding of their nation".

     "We support churches in their struggles and aspirations for peace," he said during a meeting with Sudanese minister Alfatih T Abdallah. "We affirm our hope in the government to accomplish its responsibility in protecting churches and Christians and ensuring their security."

     His comments were echoed by the minister who said Sudan "needs churches to rebuild the society after a long history of conflict". "Their right to worship and conduct their activities is a guarantee in (the) constitution of the country," he said.

     DAVID ADAMS reports on a recent visit by the Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, to Sudan and South Sudan...  |  more... |

 

22nd April, 2013

CALL TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN SYRIA

A coalition of Christian organisations from more than 20 countries has called on the international community to "provide sufficent protection" for ethnic and religious communities in Syria as well as their historical, religious and cultural sites after expressing concerns over the ongoing exodus of Christians and other minority groups from the country and attacks on religious sites within the country.

     The Religious Liberty Partnership - whose members include the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, The Voice of the Martyrs and International Christian Concern - has also urged Christians around the world to write to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and ask him to pay "particular attention" to "vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities, ensuring their equal participation in his mandate".

     DAVID ADAMS reports on new calls to protect religious minorities in Syria and for 23rd June to be designated a special day of prayer...  |  more... |

 

16th April, 2013

ESSAY: IRAQ - WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OFF AND THE DUST SETTLES

Men running, women pleading for God’s mercy, children screaming out of fear, older women trapped under rubble and thick dust rising in the air. This has been a recurring scene in Iraqi cities for close to a decade.
      Since 26th June, 2004, Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) churches have come under attack more than 80 times. The most widely publicised assault came on 31st October, 2010, when Islamic terrorists wearing suicide vests invaded Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad during mass, shot two priests and then blew themselves up. When it was over, 62 people were killed and 78 injured.
      For many people, news of this attack was their first exposure to the Assyrian people, whose history dates back to 4750 BC in Mesopotamia. According to Biblical tradition, they are the direct descendants of Shem, the Son of Noah. The Assyrians, whose language evolved from Akkadian to Aramaic, built the first cities and invented agriculture; river-fed irrigation systems and establishment of the first library were among many other Assyrian inventions that have shaped our world history.

     In an article first published by Morning Star News, JULIANA TAIMOORAZY - president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, writes of the plight of Assyrian Christians in Iraq...  |  more... |

 

8th April, 2013

BULGARIANS PRAY FOR HOPE AFTER SUICIDES

Bulgaria has begun three days of special prayers against suicide and nationwide pessimism after at least seven people set themselves on fire while protesting against poverty and corruption.

     The prayers were requested by the country's President Rosen Plevneliev who says he wants to help heal the spiritual wounds of the nation amid growing public desperation.

     Prayers reverberated throughout churches in Bulgaria, a heavily Orthodox nation. Worshippers remembered five Bulgarians who died and two who remain in critical condition by self-immolations that have shaken the conscious of this Balkan nation.

     Prayers were held by all main Christian churches, including the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant denominations, as well as the Jewish and Muslim communities.

     Just before they began, religious leaders met President Plevneliev who urged them and the country to "pray for an end to the suicides and for passing through the crisis with patience and dignity."

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

2nd April, 2013

ESSAY: UNITY ESSENTIAL FOR SURVIVAL AND WITNESS

Spiritual unity is not the same as unification. Believers will always interpret Scripture differently, observe different traditions and prefer different styles. Spiritual unity rises out of the recognition that all who are in Christ are one flock with Christ as Shepherd, one body with Christ as Head, one people filled with one Spirit and one family with God
as Father.

     Whilst spiritual unity may develop as a fruit of persecution, this is not automatically the case. If there has been a history of competition, conflict or suspicion between fellowships or denominations, then divisions may actually widen during persecution as groups long hostile towards each other compete for favoured status or limited resources in a desperate, fear-based struggle for survival.

     In an article written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (AEA RLC), ELIZABETH KENDAL, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate and a member of the AEA RLC team, looks at the importance of unity among Christians...  |  more... |

 

25th March, 2013

THOUSANDS OF TRAPPED CHRISTIANS "RESCUED" IN SUDAN

Some 1,500 Christians trapped in Sudan were last week on their way to neighboring South Sudan as part of a massive rescue operation dubbed 'Exodus', an aid group said last week.

     The Christians bring the total of rescued believers under the program to roughly 3,800 - almost double the number originally planned, explained Barnabas Fund.

     "It has been a great privilege for us to be able to help suffering Christians...begin a new life in a place where they can be free to practice their faith in peace and have opportunities to improve their circumstances," said Patrick Sookhdeo, the Fund's international director.

     A convoy of buses and lorries carrying the Christians and their belongings set off on 19th March, taking them to a new life in South Sudan, aid workers said.

     A BosNewsLife report on an operation to bring stranded Christians out of Sudan...  |  more... |

18th March, 2013

PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS DEMAND SEPARATE PROVINCE AFTER VIOLENCE

Christians demand a separate province in Pakistan after as many as 180 Christian-owned homes, shops and two churches were burned down by an angry Muslim mob in the city of Lahore.

     A Christian-ruled province could have avoided incidents such as last week's attacks against Lahore's Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood, said activists and politicians talking to BosNewsLife.

     "We request all Christian political, religious and civil society leaders to raise their voice...for a separate province for Christians, where we can live without fear of the majority's (Islamic) faith and concepts" added the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) group and the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) party.

     Under the plan, Punjab province would be divided in four parts, including one for minority Christians and the others for Sunni Muslims and the Hazara and Seraiki communities.

     BosNewsLife reports on calls for a separate province for Christians in Pakistan following violence in Lahore...  |  more... |

11th March, 2013

LIFE IN VENEZUELA UNCERTAIN

Venezuelans began seven days of public mourning last Tuesday night following the death of their president, 58-year-old Hugo Chavez, after a long battle with cancer.
      His hand-picked successor, vice-president Nicolás Maduro, is acting as interim president and running for the office in the upcoming election in the next 30 days. The Voice of the Martyrs Canada spokesman Greg Musselman says of Maduro, "He was very loyal to Hugo Chavez. We've seen a consolidation among left-leaning Latin American countries, so there is the belief that he will continue on in the same way that Hugo Chavez had."

     Venezuela's constitution specifies that the speaker of the National Assembly should assume the interim presidency if a president can't be sworn in, but Chavez made his wishes known before he died. Government officials are following the plan he outlined at that time.
      The big question now is: will there be a huge change? Not likely. "Chavism" is expected to reign on. Musselman explains, "He's a guy that does hold to the socialist ideology. We don't expect things to change drastically for the evangelical Church when it comes to evangelism and freedom to gather."

     Voice of the Martyrs' Greg Musselman looks at the situation in Venezuela following Hugo Chavez's death, in a report from Mission Network News...  |  more... |

 

4th March, 2013

ERITREAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST CHURCHES CONTINUES

A mild tremor in Eritrea's façade rippled through the government last month. A brief and quickly-ended coup attempt executed by dissident soldiers did little to provoke an uprising. It was over before it really began. However, it did give rise to two thoughts: (1) the government was dealing with discontent, and (2) due to the heightened tension, anyone who fell outside the prescribed government lines was under scrutiny.

     The latter was particularly true for Christians, who voiced expectation of a spike in harassment and oppression. True to form, the government obliged. Paul Estabrooks, Open Doors' minister-at-large, explains that on 20th February, "Seven more believers were arrested. Three of them work for the telecom company, one is a university student, and there was one woman among the seven - a mother of five."

     Paul Estabrooks, of Open Doors, talks about the deteriorating situation for Christians in the African nation of Eritrea in a report from Mission Network News...  |  more... |

 

25th February, 2013

ESSAY: SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF LIBYAN REVOLUTION BRINGS ARRESTS OF FOREIGN NATIONALS

The Arab Spring was supposed to be about freedom and democracy. Since then we have seen an increase in extremist activities throughout nearly every country that had a revolution.

     Last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had to suspend its activities in eastern and central Libya after its offices in Benghazi and Misrata were attacked.

     The aid group was accused by some people of proselytising activities and distributing Bibles to internally displaced Tanagra people in Benghazi - accusations it strenuously denied.

     Earlier this month, seven foreign nationals were arrested in Benghazi under allegations that they were engaged in spreading Christianity and forced conversions.

     As Libya recently marked the second anniversary of an uprising which toppled the government of Muammar Gaddafi, DAN WOODING, of ASSIST News Service, looks at the situation for Christians there now...  |  more... |

 

18th February, 2013

RUSSIAN CHRISTIANS IN METEOR HIT REGION APPEAL FOR PRAYERS

Christian missionaries and a pastor in Russia's Ural Mountains appealed for prayers after a meteor with the power of an atomic bomb exploded over the region injuring more than 1,000 people on Friday.

     "At least 1,000 people, including some 200 children, are reported injured, mostly by flying glass as the blast shattered windows," said Sergey Rakhuba, the president of mission group Russian Ministries, in a statement to BosNewsLife.

     "Praise God, at this time there are no reports of fatalities, although some people are still hospitalised," he explained, adding that "no believers have been reported injured."

     Hardest hit was the city of Chelyabinsk, some 1,500 kilometres east of Moscow, where Russian Ministries has a presence through its 'School Without Walls' program, which trains the next generation of Christian leaders, summer Bible camps and a Christmas gifts project for the needy.

     A report from BosNewsLife on the aftermath of last week's meteor explosion over Russia...  |  more... |

 

11th February, 2013

HUNGARY "FORCING" FOREIGN MISSIONARIES TO LEAVE UNDER NEW LAW

Foreign missionaries living in Hungary fear they will be forced to leave the country under new tax legislation, amid a wider government crackdown on religious groups.

     The Budapest Times, Hungary's leading English newspaper, said "law-abiding expats" including American missionaries could face up to 45.5 per cent in taxes over their wages.

     US missionaries, whose modest income is tax-exempt back home, are “living in uncertainty”, added the wife of an American clergyman in Hungary.

     “Missionaries will need to drum up a very large amount of additional support to imply stay here and pay their taxes," The Budapest Times quoted her as saying in this week's issue. "Most will not be able to do that, so they will be forced to move out of the country,” she explained, speaking on condition of anonymity.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

4th February, 2013

WORLDVIEW: SYRIA'S REFUGEE CRISIS CONTINUES TO WORSEN

More than 700,000 refugees have fled from Syria to neighbouring countries since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in the Middle Eastern country in early 2011 while an additional 2.5 million people have been displaced inside the country.

     The mass movement of people - which comes alongside the more than 60,000 people estimated to have been killed in the conflict - has created an ongoing humanitarian crisis within the region with countries like Lebanon and Jordan bearing the brunt.

    World Vision Australia - which has staff working in the region - has welcomed the announcement last week that the Australian Federal Government had committed $10 million to be spent on emergency medical treatment, food, water and essential items for people affected by escalating conflict but warns the number of refugees seeking shelter is continuing to rise.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

28th January, 2013

FISCAL DESPAIR REVEALS NEW CRISIS IN GREECE

Many Greeks are afraid to imagine a future.
Austerity measures have taken hold, and their bite runs deeper than winter's cold. The new measures limit family benefits and force the middle class to pay over 40 per cent of their annual salary in taxes.

     There are three main categories of people feeling austerity's sting, and the first two are related: the unemployed, and the "neo-homeless" (the unemployed and homeless). AMG International's coordinator of Eastern European ministries, Fotis Romeos, says, "We have more than 20,000 neo-homeless people in the city of Athens. It's a very tragic situation."

     The third category is refugees. "Athens is the hub, actually, the entrance of what we call the ‘Refugee Highway' for people from North Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe who are trying to enter Europe to find a better future."

     A report from Mission Network News...  |  more... |

 

22nd January, 2013

BRITISH AND IRISH CHURCHES PRAY AND WORK TOGETHER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY

Hundreds of thousands of Christians across Britain and Ireland are joining in the 2013 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in churches across these islands.

     The week is an annual event marked by churches of all traditions - Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, evangelical and indigenous. It runs from 18th to 25th January, though many congregations are most involved on Sunday, 20th January.

     The collaborative event aims at building bridges in witness and common service between Christians of many backgrounds and understandings, and is promoted by ecumenical bodies nationally and internationally.

     Here the official 'four nations' (England, Scotland, Wales and both jurisdictions of Ireland) ecumenical body, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) makes resources available for the week.

     A report from Ekklesia...  |  more... |

 

14th January, 2013

LAWYER BLAMES VICTIM IN NEW DELHI RAPE; ATTITUDE REFLECTS SOCIETY AT LARGE

Remember the rape case in New Delhi that got international attention?

     Manohar Lal Sharma, the lawyer defending the six men who assaulted a young woman aboard a moving bus, says the victims are to blame for the attack.

     "Until today, I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady," said Sharma last week. "Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect."

     This viewpoint isn't surprising to Brent Hample of India Partners, which helps women overcome the obstacles they face through a number of programs, including health care, tailoring school, and sponsorships.

     "That attitude is very common in India," says Hample. "To blame a woman for dressing inappropriately or being in a certain place at a certain time: these are just not constructive, not helpful attitudes."

     A report from Mission Network News...  |  more... |

 

31st December, 2012

UPHEAVAL IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD POSES THE GREATEST THREAT TO CHRISTIANS IN 2013, SAYS RELEASE INTERNATIONAL

Continued upheaval in the Islamic world will pose the greatest threat to Christians in the coming year while those living in totalitarian states and India also face a "growing risk" of persecution, according to Release International.

The UK-based organisation - which offers support to the persecuted church in 30 countries around the world through a network of partner groups - says its partners identified the three key contexts in which Christians will face a growing risk of persecution in 2013.

     In the Islamic world, it identified Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and northern and central Nigeria as countries where Christians face growing threats.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

17th December, 2012

CHRISTIANS IN KAZAKHSTAN AND KYRGYZSTAN FACE CRACKDOWN

Christians in autocratically ruled Kazakhstan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan face church closures and state c ontrol over Christian materials amid a fresh crackdown by authorities on faith groups in the region, BosNewsLife has learned.

     In Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled virtually unchallenged since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, several Protestant churches were reportedly closed down in recent weeks.

     Members of a Protestant Church in southern Kazakhstan said in published remarks that a regional court "liquidated" their congregation along with "five or six more Protestant Churches".

     Rights group Forum 18, which is in contact with the Christians, told BosNewsLife that church members refused to reveal their exact location amid fears of state reprisals.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

10th December, 2012

CHRISTIANS TENSE IN EGYPT AFTER DEADLY PROTESTS

Egypt's minority Christians faced new tensions on Sunday after the president annulled degrees giving him sweeping powers following deadly protests, but refused to cancel a referendum on a new constitution.

     On Sunday, the liberal opposition called for new street protests to pressure President Mohammed Morsi to also halt plans for the 15th December referendum.

      Critics say he the constitution was hurriedly adopted by his Islamist allies during an all-night session late last month.

     The opposition National Salvation Front therefore urged supporters to rally against the referendum.   

     Reporters said the size of Sunday's turnout, especially at Cairo's central Tahrir square and outside the presidential palace in the capital's Heliopolis district would determine whether Morsi's concession chipped away some of the popular support for the opposition's cause.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

4th December, 2012

THOUSANDS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST NAZISM IN HUNGARY

Thousands of Hungarians braved winter temperatures to attend an anti-Nazi rally in Budapest on Sunday, protesting against a far-right leader's proposal to draw up lists of Hungarian Jews who may "represent a security risk" for the nation.

     Márton Gyöngyösi of the Hungarian Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), the country's largest far-right party, told parliament last week that it was time "to assess...how many people of Jewish origin there are here, and especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who represent a certain national security risk for Hungary."

     He said the lists, resembling similar measures during the Nazi-era, "were necessary" because of heightened tensions after a brief conflict in Gaza and should include lawmakers and other officials.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

26th November, 2012

SOUTH SUDAN BORDER DISPUTE BRINGS DESTITUTION TO THOUSANDS

As politicians wrangle ahead of an early December deadline over the still-disputed status of the oil-rich region of Abyei, straddling the border of Sudan and South Sudan, local church leaders appeal for help in the face of a potential humanitarian crisis.

     Both governments have been asked to approve an African Union proposal to resolve the status of the Abyei region. Sudan is stalling, keen to avoid the proposed referendum next year on self-determination for an area the size of Lebanon, a referendum which has already been previously postponed.

     While arguments over nationality drag on, thousands of people face near-starvation in villages devastated by the conflict - particularly since May 2011 when a combination of northern militias, led by tanks and 5,000 Sudanese Army troops, destroyed roughly 90 per cent of Abyei town.

     A report from Open Doors News...  |  more... |

 

19th November, 2012

NIGERIAN ARMY CHIEF ESTIMATES DEATHS FROM BOKO HARAM ATTACKS AT 3,000

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which is waging war against Christians in Nigeria, has been responsible for an estimated 3,000 deaths since 2009, according to an army chief. 

     Barnabas Aid says that the figure given by Azubuike Ihejirika on 6th November, 2012, of the total number of Boko Haram victims is the highest reported by an official source.

     The group has been carrying out deadly attacks on churches and Christian communities as well as the security forces and official targets in its campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria.

     DAN WOODING, of ASSIST News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

12th November, 2012

CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES RETURN OF CHURCH PROPERTIES

The Czech Parliament has approved a plan to return billions of dollars in church properties that were confiscated by the previous Communist regime. The Catholic Church in the Czech Republic has welcomed the deal, after years of negotiations.

Under the legislation, churches will receive lands, properties and compensation worth some $US7 billion over a period of 30 years.

It includes about six per cent of the country's forests and fields that once belonged to mostly Christian churches.

That land, which was confiscated by the previous Communist regime after 1948, could in future be developed, rented or sold to help pay for the church's mission.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

5th November, 2012

MASSIVE CHRISTIAN RALLY IN EGYPTIAN DESERT BRINGS ESTIMATED 25,000 TO CHRIST

Revival is spreading throughout Egypt; a revival of faith in Jesus Christ.

     According to a news release from Open Doors ministry, during the first weekend in October, 10,000 young people gathered in the desert 60 miles north of Cairo to sing, pray and worship the Lord.

     The youth gathering was followed up with an even larger event at the same location; an 25th to 28th October "Count It Right" Christian rally which drew 45,000 people. Hundreds of buses brought in people of all ages to the conference grounds, which also hosted art and sports activities.

     JEREMY REYNALDS, of ASSIST News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

29th October, 2012

WHY INDIA'S KARNATAKA STATE NEEDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION

Attacks on Christians in the south Indian state of Karnataka are being reported almost every other day. And now, with the state assembly election not too far away, the frequency and the intensity of attacks might further increase. For, the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be consolidating its Hindu votebank in the wake of a new crisis.

     Attacks on Christians shot up in the state after the BJP came to power on its own in May 2008, after being part of a ruling alliance with a regional party, the Janata Dal-Secular, for about 20 months. While Hindu nationalist groups had been working in Karnataka for decades - due to the presence of some highly influential Hindu shrines in the state, those groups began to freely implement their agenda only after the BJP's rise to power.

     FERNANDO PEREZ, of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, reports...  |  more... |

 

22nd October, 2012

72 MILLION PEOPLE FORCIBLY DISPLACED FROM THEIR HOMES, SAYS REPORT

More than 72 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes, according to a report released last week by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

     The 2012 World Disasters Report shows that more than one in every 100 people on earth have been forced into migration by a series of complex factors including conflicts, disasters, political upheaval and large scale development projects. The cost to the international community is estimated at $US8 billion.

     Of the 72 million people, an estimated 20 million are living in what the report calls "prolonged displacement". The report shows that as many as 15 million have been displaced by development - the same figure as those displaced by technological or natural disasters, while 43 million have been displaced due to conflict or violence.

DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

15th October, 2012

PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS BRING SOBERING THOUGHTS FOR VENEZUELAN CHRISTIANS

In a re-election to another six-year term, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez defeated Henrique Capriles by a 10 per cent point margin in the presidential election.

     The win marks Chavez's fourth presidential election victory since 1998. It also means more of the same leftist-leaning policies. Some of these have earned Venezuela a dubious reputation.

     In fact, the 2012 US Commission on International Religious Freedom Watch List includes Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, and Venezuela. Venezuela has been on USCIRF's Watch List since 2009.

     According to the USCIRF, "The Watch List provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom, thereby providing policymakers with the opportunity to engage early and increasing the likelihood of preventing or diminishing the violations."

     A report from Mission Network News...  |  more... |

 

8th October, 2012

MIDDLE EASTERN CHRISTIANS ARE ENDANGERED, PROTESTANT ASSEMBLY HEARS

Life for Christians in the Middle East has "never been worse" and their future is acutely endangered, according to the leader of an evangelical church fellowship.

     Rosangela Jarjour, general secretary of the Beirut-based Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, spoke at the 7th General Assembly of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE). The assembly met in Florence, Italy from 21st to 26th September.
    "We don't want to become refugees, but to live in peace and with full citizens' rights and duties in our own land," she said on 21st September, according to a CPCE news release.

     A report from ENInews...  |  more... |

 

2nd October, 2012

LONDON'S WEMBLEY STADIUM SUBMERGED BY WAVES OF PRAYER AND PRAISE

Wembley stadium was overtaken by a wave of prayer and praise when over 32,000 gathered for the National Day of Prayer and Worship on Saturday.
     Tens of thousands more were able to join the day through live broadcasts and streams via GOD TV, Revelation TV, OHTV, Premier Radio and UCB.

     During one of the key moments of the day as 300 young Christians in red hoodies were being commissioned to carry on the baton of prayer into the next generation, a Mexican wave of united prayer engulfed the whole stadium as tens of thousands were believing for a new wave of revival to hit the UK.

     PETER WOODING, of Assist News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

24th September, 2012

THOUSANDS HEAR GOSPEL IN ALBANIA AT PALAU EVANGELISM FESTIVAL

Tens of thousands have heard the Christian "Good News" in Albania's capital Tirana and "many" made "public decisions for Jesus Christ" at an evangelism festival of American evangelist Luis Palau, organisers said.

     The announcement came as thousands gathered at Tirana's Mother Teresa Square on Sunday for the second and final day of 'TiranaFest', the first evangelistic gathering of its kind in this formerly atheistic nation.
      Palau called the event "historic" as in 1967 the Albanian leadership closed all religious institutions and declared Albania the world’s first "purely atheistic state."

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

17th September, 2012

POPE ARRIVES IN LEBANON AS RIOTS FLARE ACROSS MIDDLE EAST

As violent protests against an anti-Islam film spread to much of the Muslim world on 14th September, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon to a warm welcome from Christian and Muslim leaders.

     The pontiff's appeal for peace and reconciliation in the region, however, stood in jarring contrast with violent clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, which left one dead and 25 injured, Religion News Service reports.

     Landing at Beirut's airport in the early afternoon, Pope Benedict praised Lebanon as an example of "coexistence and respectful dialogue between Christians and their brethren of other religions." Without referring expressly to the unrest, the pope warned that the country's "equilibrium" is "extremely delicate."

     ALESSANDRO SPECIALE, of ENInews/RNS, reports...  |  more... |

 

10th September, 2012

GERMAN PUBLIC FIGURES CALL FOR CHURCH UNITY

Public figures from the fields of politics, sport, culture and entertainment in Germany presented a statement in Berlin on 5th September making an urgent call for unity between the Catholic and Protestant churches.

     "Today, the church schism is neither wanted nor justified politically," the statement entitled 'Ecumenism Now -- one God, one faith, one Church' reads. "Will theological factors, institutional habits and ecclesiastic and cultural traditions sustain the schism between the churches? We don’t think so."

     The statement calling for an end to the 500-year-old schism between the churches was signed by politicians including the head of the German parliament Norbert Lammert, Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere, and head of the opposition Social Democrat Party Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

      RUBY RUSSELL, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

3rd September, 2012

THOUSANDS OF YOUNGSTERS SEEK UNITED, PEACEFUL WORLD IN BUDAPEST

More than 12,000 youngsters from some 100 nations have concluded Central and Eastern Europe's first-ever 'Genfest', a youth summit, with a call for a more united and peaceful world.

     After three days of exchanging ideas on how to realise that utopia, they prayed and listened in front of Budapest's Saint Stephen's Basilica, one of Hungary's largest Roman Catholic Church buildings.

     During the open air Mass they were encouraged not to give up their hope and dreams

     The Vatican's ambassador to Hungary, the Apostolic Nuncio Alberto Bottari de Castello reminded participants of this year's Genfest theme: 'Let's Bridge'.

     He said, "Christ is the true bridge between people and God," and that "the Lord wants us to carry" out that message as "bridges of love towards all people."

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |


29th August, 2012

A QUARTER OF WORLD'S WATER WASTED ON FOOD NO-ONE EATS, CONFERENCE HEARS

More than a quarter of water used around the world is directed towards growing food that no-one eats, a global conference in Stockholm marking World Water Week had heard.

     Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says that more than a quarter of all water used worldwide is employed to grow more than a billion tonnes of food which simply ends up "sent down the drain".

     “Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources," he says. "It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook."

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

20th August, 2012

GLOBAL POLL SHOWS AFRICANS MOST 'RELIGIOUS' AND NORTH ASIANS LEAST WHILE 13 PER CENT SAY THEY ARE ATHEISTS

More people in Africa profess to be religious than in any other region around the world while globally only 13 per cent of people say they are atheists, according to the latest Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism.

     The latest global poll released by WIN-Gallup International shows that 89 per cent of Africans say they are religious - well above the global average of 59 per cent. Africa was followed by Latin America (84 per cent) and South Asia (83 per cent) while the areas where the least number of people claimed to be religious were Western Europe (51 per cent), East Asia (39 per cent) and North Asia (17 per cent).

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

14th August, 2012

CHURCHES WANT US TO DESIGNATE NIGERIA'S BOKO HARAM AS 'TERRORISTS'

An umbrella organisation of US-based Baptist churches have urged the United States government to designate Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram as "a terrorist group" and to support religious minorities in the Middle East, North Africa and South-Central Asia.

     That designation would allow more funding and policy initiatives towards combating Boko Haram and related groups.

     The distributed appeal by the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), seen by BosNewsLife on 10th August, came just days after suspected Boko Haram fighters opened fire at an evangelical church in central Nigeria killing at least 19 people before Bible study began and, in a separate attack, shot and killed a colleague of a Nigerian evangelist and BosNewsLife stringer.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

7th August, 2012

ISLAMIC LEADERS IN NIGERIA URGE BOKO HARAM TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS

Islamic scholars and leaders in Nigeria have urged militant group Boko Haram to end its violent campaign against Christians and other targets in the country.
      According to UK-based Barnabas Fund, Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria.

     Speaking at a lecture as part of the National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations’ Ramadan activities, they called for a ceasefire from the group.

     One of the speakers, Sayid Bagher Seyed Jaradi, the Acting Cultural Consulate of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said this was “urgently expected for the sake of humanity, credibility of the Islamic religion and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians”.

     DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

30th July, 2012

GOOD NEWS IN BAD TIMES FOR GREECE

Greece has had its share of adverse publicity in the past few years. Many are fearful that it will default on its financial obligations. Others feel that it might withdraw from the Euro and head back to the bad old days of the drachma. There are also concerns that a Grecian collapse could cause a domino effect and draw other countries down with it.

     But a group of 323 volunteers from 22 countries around the world, have spent the seven days recently bringing good news to the people of northern Greece.

     Together they have distributed 126,207 Bibles in modern Greek. In addition each New Testament included an audio MP3 version of the Greek NT and a challenging personal testimony from a Thessalonian Greek who came to Christ after overcoming his addiction to gambling.

     NICO BOUGAS reports in an article first published by Assist News Service...  |  more... |

 

23rd July, 2012

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION IN CEREMONY AT MASSACRE SITE

Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke at a service on 15th July to consecrate a church near a forest where thousands of Polish army officers and intelligentsia were massacred by Stalin's secret police in 1940.

     Patriarch Kirill also remembered the thousands of Russians who were slaughtered there, many for their religious faith, and said the site should serve as a place to unite Russians and Poles.

    The Katyn Massacre - in which about 22,000 people were killed - is named after the forest in the Smolensk region near the Polish border where it took place.

     Many of the Poles killed in 1940 were Orthodox Christians, of which the country has a large minority.

     SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

16th July, 2012

CZECH LOWER HOUSE APPROVES CHURCH RESTITUTION

The lower house of the Czech Republic's parliament narrowly approved a government plan late Friday, 13th July, to return property seized from churches during the 1948-1989 Communist era, and to pay billions of dollars in compensation.

     Supporters view the move as a major step to end the legacy of Communism, but the opposition has pledged to block the legislation in the Senate.

     Under the plan agreed by the ruling parties and 17 religious groups led by the Catholic church, the state will give back most properties confiscated under Communism, mainly land and buildings, worth some $US4 billion.

     Prague also pledges about $US2.8 billion in cash compensation to the churches, split into 30 yearly payments.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

10th July, 2012

BRAZIL'S CENSUS SHOWS MORE EVANGELICALS, FEWER ROMAN CATHOLICS

Church leaders in Brazil have been debating the results of the nation's latest census data that show declines in numbers of Roman Catholics and an increase of people identifying as evangelical.

     While most say they are not surprised by the results, they expressed frustration at the lack of specifics within the data, the Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency (ALC) reports.

     During a roundtable discussion broadcast on Rádio Gaúcha of Porto Alegre, Rev Walter Altmann, a Brazilian Lutheran pastor and moderator of the World Council of Churches' Central Committee, expressed concerns at the statistics.

     EDELBERTO BEHS reports for ENInews/ALC...  |  more... |

 

3rd July, 2012

INDONESIAN REGENT ORDERS CLOSURE OF CHURCHES

Christians in Indonesia's semi-autonomous province of Aceh faced a tense Sunday after local authorities ordered the demolition of 20 churches.

Razali Abdul Rahman, the acting regent of Aceh Singkil Regency in Aceh, signed the letter already on 30th April, but details recently emerged.

     He ordered the closure of 17 Protestant churches, two Catholic churches and one place of worship belonging to followers of a local nondenominational faith, The Jakarta Post newspaper said.

     Rights activists said the announcement came after 16 smaller Christian places of worship were recently closed in the same district.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

27th June, 2012

FAITH GROUPS CRITICISE OUTCOME OF CLIMATE SUMMIT

Several faith-based organisations said they were disappointed with the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, which took place 20th to 22nd June in Rio de Janeiro.

     The Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) said that while the conference's final document, addressing the theme "The Future We Want," acknowledged that access to food is a human right, it did not pay adequate attention to needed changes in agriculture that favor the small farmer over big corporations.

     The document "leaves the door open for greater intensification of industrial agriculture -- a system that has proved unsuccessful in eradicating hunger sustainably and has led to near-collapse of ecosystems and communities," said executive director Peter Prove, according to an EAA news release.

     A report from ENInews...  |  more... |

 

19th June, 2012

CHURCH LEADERS APPEAL FOR UNITY IN MEXICO AS NATIONAL ELECTIONS DRAW NEAR

Disciples of Christ leaders in Mexico are calling for Christians to put political rancor aside as citizens prepare to vote on 1st July in what has been a contentious presidential campaign season.

     Political fanaticism and intolerance during the presidential election process have damaged relationships among families, communities and the people, and also those between brothers and sisters in the church, said Pastor Josué Martínez Cisneros, president of the Confraternity of Disciples of Christ Evangelical Christian Churches of Mexico.

      A report from ENInews...  |  more... |

 

12th June, 2012

HUNDREDS OF UK CHURCHES PUT FAITH INTO WORDS AND ACTION THROUGH DIAMOND JUBILEE PARTIES

What will you bring to the table? That was the question from the Eden Project’s Big Lunch team when they asked community outreach ministry HOPE to help to get churches involved in local Big Jubilee Lunches across the UK.

     As a result thousands of churches were inspired by HOPE to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by helping with or hosting a Big Jubilee Lunch for people in their neighbourhood.

     Peter Stewart, the Eden Project’s campaigns and communications director said: “At the heart of many communities, churches are fantastically placed to bring people together. The Big Lunch offers the chance for members to reach out to others in the community and put their faith into action.

     PETER WOODING, of Assist News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

6th June, 2012

UPTICK IN CHURCH CLOSURES AND ATTACKS IN INDONESIA

The number of violations of Christians’ religious rights in Indonesia reached 40 in the first five months of the year, nearly two-thirds the amount of anti-Christian actions in all of last year, according to the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum.
      The Christian minority in Indonesia faced 64 cases of violations of religious freedom last year, up from 47 in 2010, said Theophilus Bela, president of the group. Bela said he was worried about the growing incidence of violence and church closures, as his group recorded just 10 anti-Christian incidents in 2009. There were 40 such incidents in 2008, he said.

     VISHAL ARORA and VICTOR AMBARITA report for Compass Direct News...  |  more... |

 

23rd May, 2012

KOREAN CHURCHES PLAN PEACE TRAIN AHEAD OF 2013 GATHERING

Korean churches are developing plans for a "peace train" that would travel from Berlin through Moscow and Beijing to Busan, South Korea in time for the World Council of Churches' (WCC) global assembly in October 2013.

     The plan is to draw attention to the need for peace and reunification in the Korean peninsula, the churches said, and North Korea also would be on the route of the train, which would carry church and civil society representatives.

     "Peace Together 2013, a committee of the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK), is working with the governments on the plan," said Chae Hye-won, Director of the Committee of Reconciliation and Reunification of the NCCK.

     KRISTINE GREENAWAY, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

23rd May, 2012

FAITH-BASED AND CIVIL GROUPS AID ITALIAN EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS

Faith-based and civil relief groups are providing aid to more than 4,000 victims left homeless by an earthquake that struck the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna on 20th May, killing at least seven people and wounding dozens.

     The Italian news agency ANSA said a number of historic churches and castles were destroyed or damaged by the quake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale, and its aftershocks.

     "We're close to the people in prayer and in particular the families of the victims. We will support the local church in providing aid," said Don Francesco Soddu, director of Caritas Italy, part of an international Catholic aid network. The Italian Red Cross was also responding.

     JOHN ZAROCOSTAS, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

15th May, 2012

UGANDAN FAITH LEADERS URGE TRANSPARENCY AFTER OIL DISCOVERY

In Uganda, faith leaders are joining citizens in demanding openness in the handling of recently-discovered crude oil, which is inspiring hope for a better future for the East African country.

The faith leaders, who are uniting under the Inter-religious Council of Uganda, are warning that the laws governing the sector are too weak to guarantee transparency and accountability.

With the government announcing that the oil is potentially worth $US13 billion, the council's chair, Roman Catholic Archbishop John Baptist Odama, said the group wanted a quick review of the laws governing the sector, in order to reflect the interest of citizens.

     FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

9th May, 2012

GROWING NUMBER OF CHRISTIANS IN AFGHANISTAN, SAY ACTIVISTS, DESPITE DEATH THREATS

A growing number of Afghans, including politicians, are embracing Christianity and meet in "house churches" despite death treats and attacks by Islamic militants, according to Christians rights activists and news reports.

     Mohabat News, a Christian news agency, quoted "informed Afghan authorities" as saying that Christianity has obtained a special place" among youth and other "layers in society." House churches "are growing tremendously," the officials reportedly said.

     Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), an advocacy group assisting Christians living in difficult areas, explained that it learned from an "independent Shi'ite website" that an Afghan official concluded "There is evidence of widespread Christian propaganda in Afghanistan".

      A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

3rd May, 2012

PROTECTING AND LISTENING TO SYRIA'S CHRISTIANS

Extremist Islamist forces in Syria's opposition movement have attacked local Christians reportedly due to the belief that they back the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

     According to a report by Fernando Perez of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC), the country's largest denomination, the Syrian Orthodox Church, recently highlighted “an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians.” The action was allegedly by members of an al-Qaida-linked militant Islamist group, Brigade Faruq, in the city of Homs, an opposition stronghold.

      Catholic news agency Fides has reported that more than 90 per cent of Christians in Homs have fled to Jordan and their homes have been grabbed by the militants.

     JEREMY REYNOLDS, of Assist News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

26th April, 2012

CONCERN MOUNTS OVER SWEDEN'S PLANNED DEPORTATION OF IRANIAN CHRISTIANS

There was concern over the plight of several Iranian Christian asylum seekers in Sweden this week after Swedish authorities decided to deport them despite fears they may be jailed or even executed there, Christians said.

     It comes after Swedish authorities reportedly already deported one asylum seeker, identified as Mohammad-Reza Hamedi on 15th February this year.

     "We are four Iranian human rights activists who object to the racist politics of the Swedish government towards the asylum seeker's community and strongly condemn the deportation of Mohammad-Reza Hamedi on February 15, 2012," said activists in a statement distributed by Mohabat News, an Iranian news agency of Christians and activists.

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  |  more... |

 

17th April, 2012

MURDERED BECAUSE HE/SHE BELONGED TO THE 'THIRD GENDER'

I had known Nadia (an Urdu name for females) for a long time. Every month "she" would visit our locality, ring doorbells and ask for money.
      Then Nadia disappeared for a long time and, after a few months, another member of her "clan" visited our home and told my mother that "Nadia has been murdered by a gang of guys who were mocking her on the street and, upon her cursing them, they were offended and took her life. But no police case was registered as her murder does not matter to them; neither did her life."

     Nadia was neither a male nor a female. She belonged to the neglected and underprivileged outcast group known as the "Third Gender" who live lives of squalor in the slums of our society, such as in many underdeveloped and developing countries including Pakistan and India.

     SYBIL DANIEL reports from Pakistan for Assist News Service...  |  more... |

 

12th April, 2012

TURKEY'S RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RECORD SLIDES, CLAIMS US REPORT

Sentiment against Christians in Turkey has persisted long enough for a US religious rights monitor to recommend it as a “Country of Particular Concern,” and pastor Orhan Picaklar knows such anti-Christian hostility first-hand.
      Picaklar, of Agape Church in Samsun, lives in the Black Sea region, a bastion of Turkey’s unique Islamic-imbued nationalism, where Christians live under increasing pressure. He has seen his building attacked and his family and congregation threatened.

     “Just as it is difficult to belong to Jesus all over the world, unfortunately it is the same in Samsun, if not worse,” Picaklar said. “We have been here for 10 years, and people here still treat us like cursed enemies. Our families feel anxiety. On the hour my wife calls me and I have to say, ‘There’s no problem,’ as if to say, ‘I’m still alive.’”

     DAMARIS KREMIDA, of Compass Direct News, reports...  |  more... |

 

4th April, 2012

CHURCHES CAMPAIGN FOR TREATY TO TACKLE ILLICIT ARMS TRADE, OFTEN A NORTH-SOUTH BUSINESS

After July, arms used to commit atrocities and serious crimes may become harder to buy, and harder to sell, internationally. That is if governments already agreed on the need to regulate the arms trade can agree on a treaty that is fit for the task and covers all conventional weapons.

     Diplomats from nearly 200 countries will spend July at the United Nations to negotiate the proposed Arms Trade Treaty.
    Their challenge lies in keeping the arms trade open to militaries, police forces and other groups who are judged to use arms legally and responsibly, and closing the trade to those who don’t. Arms manufacturers, gun enthusiasts, as well as civil society organisations and churches are seeking to influence the outcome.

     JONATHAN FRERICHS reports...  |  more... |

 

27th March, 2012

BURMESE ARMY ATTACKS CHURCH AND CHRISTIAN CONFERENCE

Burma's military ransacked a Baptist church and broke up a Christian conference of the predominantly Christian Chin community in the latest confrontation between government forces and ethnic minorities, Christian investigators told BosNewsLife on 26th March.

     A legislator trying to halt the violence was reportedly threatened at gunpoint.
      Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), which represents the community, said the Burma Army attacked the Sin Lum Pang Mu Baptist Church in Pang Mu village, in Bhamo district, on 13th March.

     The church pastor Jangmaw Gam Maw said soldiers "from the 33rd battalion of the Burma Army’s 88th Infantry Division burned Bibles, destroyed church property, and stole a video player, loudspeakers and villagers’ belongings."

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  |  more... |

 

20th March, 2012

US CHRISTIANS HOPE FOR 'ECUMENICAL SPRING'

For years, advocates for greater unity among Christian churches have wrung their hands amid talk of an "ecumenical winter." But now, 10 years after leaders took the first steps toward forming the broad-based group Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT), some have hopes that US churches may be entering a new season of closer relations.

     At a recent CCT meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, 85 Christians - Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, white and nonwhite - made pilgrimages to historic sites of the civil rights movement, Religion News Service reports. They also made plans to use next year's 50th anniversary of Rev Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" to pursue anti-poverty projects with houses of worship unlike their own.

     ADELLE M BANKS, of ENnews/RNS, reports...  |  more... |

 

13th March, 2012

CUBAN CHRISTIANS ATTACKED AHEAD OF POPE'S VISIT, CLAIMS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

Christian rights activists claim they have detected an "increase in religious freedom violations" in Cuba ranging from preventing people to attend church services, to the seizure of church land, harassment, beatings and imprisonment of church leaders.

     Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said it recorded 20 separate incidents targeting Christians, compared with 28 in all of 2011.

     CSW said the incidents seem to have increased ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's planned 26th to 28th March visit.

     "A number of Catholic human rights activists, primarily affiliated with the Ladies in White movement, have been arrested or violently prevented from attending church services," the group added.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

6th March, 2012

ASSEMBLIES OF GOD MARKING 100 YEARS IN NICARAGUA

The Assemblies of God church in Nicaragua is in the middle of a three month centennial celebration that will culminate 21st April with an official commemoration in Managua.

     A two-day caravan of 170 vehicles set out on 28th January from the Pacific port city of Corinto, where Rev Benuz Shoneckey set foot on Nicaraguan soil in 1912. The caravan retraced the route Choneckey and his wife, Yegui, used in establishing a mission in the Central American nation, ending up 145 km to the north in the capital of Managua.

     Pastor Roberto Rojas Moya, the national secretary of the Assemblies of God in Nicaragua, told a national television audience that the commemoration caravan, which included motorcycles, cars and buses, took only two days on the route that Shoneckey negotiated on horseback and ox-drawn carriages, the Latin America and Caribbean Communication Agency reported.

     A report from ENInews...  |  more... |

 

28th February, 2012

NEW ZEALAND CHURCHES MARK ANNIVERSARY OF DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE

As Christians worldwide marked the beginning of Lent, New Zealand church leaders gathered with Christchurch residents to mark the first anniversary of the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that devastated the city one year ago.

     Some who attended commemorative church services on Ash Wednesday received ashes marked on the forehead in the form of a cross, symbolising undying hope in the midst of loss and suffering. Others scattered ashes of loved ones.
      At the main outdoor service at Hagley Park, attended by 20,000 people, the names of 185 people who died in the quake were read by police, fire and hospital chaplains and other emergency services personnel.

     DAVID CRAMPTON, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

21st February, 2012

ESSAY: MIDDLE EASTERN CHRISTIANS FACE A BLEAK FUTURE

The 'Arab Spring' opened the door for long-repressed Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi forces to rise up and seize power locally and challenge the balance of power regionally. Faced with escalating persecution and decreasing security, Christians are increasingly opting for flight. The alternative is to exist as dhimmis: subjugated second-class citizens forced to live with crippling inequality and profound insecurity under Islamic domination.

     In Egypt, Iraq and Syria - homes to the region's largest and most ancient Christian communities - the security situation is critical. Furthermore, the conflict in Syria has the potential to inflame sectarian tensions in neighbouring volatile Lebanon, which is also home to several large and ancient Christian communities.

     ELIZABETH KENDAL says it's time for churches to pray...  |  more... |

 

14th February, 2012

PROGRESS IN BURMA BUT "GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS" MEAN THERE'S STILL A LONG WAY TO GO, SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

Burmese troops are committing "grave human rights violations" against the predominantly Christian Kachin people, according to a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

     The report, released on Sunday to mark Burma's Union Day - the 65th anniversary of the Panglong Agreement under which the Burmese Government accepted full autonomy in internal administration in 'frontier areas' and envisaged the creation of a Kachin State - concluded that while "a window of opportunity for change in Burma after decades of oppression and conflict may have now opened,” the situation in Kachin and northern Shan States illustrated that “there is still a very long way to go”.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

10th February, 2012

GOSPEL REACHES IRANIAN SHIPWORKERS

Farsi speaking missionaries are targeting Iranian ship crews in Christian countries to give them Bibles.

     That's according to the Iranian Christian news agency, Mohabat News, which is reporting that missionaries "have taken advantage of the presence of Iranian ships and their crews in ports of Christian dominant countries...by giving away cultural items such as books and Jesus films in Farsi."

   Mohabat News said this news followed on the heels of Islamic regime websites criticising missionaries for not leaving Iranian passengers alone in neighboring countries.

     JEREMY REYNALDS reports for Assist News Service...  |  more... |

 

2nd February, 2012

ECUMENICAL FUND HELPS SMALL FILIPINO ENTREPRENEURS

It is harvest time for strawberries in the northern Philippine town of La Trinidad, so strawberry farmer Alice Rivera will start repaying a loan extended by a Geneva-based ecumenical church loan fund.

     "This is what we appreciate...we can start repaying our loans only immediately after the harvest season starts," said Rivera, who is 45. She is just one of 7,000 clients being served by the Ecumenical Church Loan Fund-Philippines (Eclof-Philippines), whose initial seed fund was provided by Eclof International, a non-profit micro-finance organisation.

     Rivera, a widow and mother of a nine-year old son, has started harvesting strawberries from a 500-square-meter lot that she leases from the farm of Benguet State University, an agricultural school.

     MAURICE MALANES reports for ENInews...  |  more... |

 

28th January, 2012

FRENCH PROTESTANTS PUT SPOTLIGHT ON CHAPLAINCY, AMID TENSIONS

In a bid to reduce tensions with other religious groups and to highlight challenges, the Protestant Federation of France has turned the spotlight on chaplaincy this year.

     At the group's General Assembly on 21st and 22nd January in Paris, members examined the issues chaplains face in hospitals, prisons and the military and urged member churches to take steps to support chaplains' work.

     Pastor Claude Baty, president of the federation, told ENInews that a key concern was the tensions in some sectors between Protestant chaplains and those from the Catholic Church. He said that as the number of practising Catholics decline in France, the Catholic Church was "worried" about losing its traditionally dominant position, including in the area of chaplaincy.

     AD McKENZIE reports for ENInews...  |  more... |

 

17th January, 2012

ZANZIBAR CHURCHES TORCHED; CHRISTIANS HARASSED

Leaders of Christians in Zanzibar, Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago, have appealed for more religious freedom in the heavily Islamic region, after Muslim extremists allegedly destroyed at least two church buildings, while elsewhere believers were detained or harassed.

     "All people should enjoy religious freedom,” including Christians, who comprise less than three per cent of Zanzibar's mainly Muslim population of roughly a million people, said church leader Dickson Maganga of the Tanzania Assemblies of God (TAG) in Zanzibar.

     He spoke on Sunday, 15th January, after weeks of reported attacks against churches and Christians.

     Christians said in one of the latest incidents a Muslim mob torched the building of the Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship of Africa in Mtufani Mwera, about 12 kilometres from the capital Zanzibar City.

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  |  more... |

 

10th January, 2012

CHURCH OF NORWAY TO IMPROVE INCLUSION OF NATIVE SAMI PEOPLE

The (Lutheran) Church of Norway in the next five years will be implementing a plan to enhance the role of the indigenous Sami people in church life.

     "We want Sami church life to be an equal and natural part of the church, and the Church of Norway to be a multicultural fellowship," said Jens-Petter Johnsen, director general of the Church of Norway National Council. He spoke with the Church of Norway Information Service.

     The Sami are an indigenous people in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and on the Kola Peninsula in Russia. There are an estimated 50,000 to 65,000 Sami in Norway, leading their traditional life in rural areas, but also living in Oslo and other cities. The Sami language belongs to the Finno-Ugric family.

     OIVIND OSTANG, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

4th January, 2012

CHURCHES AROUND THE WORLD INVITED TO SEND MESSAGES OF SUPPORT TO CHILDREN AFFECTED BY IRANIAN CHURCH RAID

The brutal attack on the Assemblies of God (AOG) church of Ahwaz on 23rd December, 2011, seems to have psychologically affected the children who were arrested in a harsh manner by security authorities. In this connection, Iranian and non-Iranian Christians and churches are invited to reassure these children by sending cards of encouragement.

      According to the Iranian Christian news agency, Mohabat News, following the attack by security authorities on the AOG church of Ahwaz at Christmas, the Hamgam Council of Iranian Churches is inviting all Iranian and foreign churches to send cards of encouragement to the children who were mentally affected during the raid.

     DAN WOODING, of Assist News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

30th December, 2011

IN KENYA CAMP AT CHRISTMAS, REFUGEES SEE JESUS AS ONE OF THEM

In the Dadaab refugee complex in northern Kenya, the concept of Jesus as a refugee is gaining relevance, as Christians and refugee churches celebrated Christmas.

     In the settlement, Pastor Ancent Muisyo of the Dadaab International Worship Center said church leaders were encouraging refugees from conflict and famine in the Horn of Africa to be hopeful, even as the government on 21st December issued a security alert for churches across the country. The centre brings together members from 50 Christian denominations, including Anglicans, Presbyterians and Baptists.

     FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

19th December, 2011

PHILIPPINE CHURCH LEADERS JOIN MOVEMENT AGAINST BIG MINING FIRMS

Leaders from Philippine Roman Catholic and Protestant groups have joined non-government and indigenous peoples' organisations in a renewed campaign against big mining firms.

     "The campaign against large-scale mining is also a campaign against greed," Rev Eduardo Solang, a retired priest of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, told ENInews on 14th December.

     Rev Solang was among 150 delegates to a 13th to 15th December mining and human rights summit convened in the northern Philippine city of Baguio by the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum.

     MAURICE MALANES, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

12th December, 2011

UZBEKISTAN CHURCHES BANNED FROM EVANGLISING, YOUTH WORSHIP

Authorities in eastern Uzbekistan have warned local churches not to allow youngsters and children to attend their worship services and not to carry out missionary activities or "proselytism", the word for evangelism, local Christians and activists said.

     The news emerged last week after Deputy Head of Administration Saidibrahim Saynazirov spoke with church leaders in the city of Angren, 110 kilometres east of Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent.

     He reportedly met with officials of the Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Presbyterian, Seventh-day Adventist and Baptist churches, but not with representatives of non-registered communities, observers said.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

4th December, 2011

RELIGIOUS LEADERS ENCOURAGE DEEPER ENGAGEMENT ON AIDS

Leaders from five world religions gathered in Toronto just ahead of World AIDS Day on 1st December to encourage their peers to deepen their engagement and action on HIV-AIDS "by addressing the difficult issues raised by the pandemic, in dialogue with people living with HIV."

     At the same time, the faith leaders expressed "dismay at the recent drop in funding for the AIDS response just as recent statistics show the effectiveness of prevention and treatment approaches."

      The 29th to 30th November conference brought 15 Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders together to assess faith communities' progress in fulfilling earlier commitments on HIV activism and awareness. They were joined by organizations representing people living with HIV and global agencies on the front lines of the battle against the disease, including the United Nations agency UNAIDS and the World AIDS Campaign.

      RON CSILLAG reports for ENInews...  |  more... |

 

14th November, 2011

LUTHERAN CHURCHES IN INDONESIA PLEDGE TO COMBAT HIV/AIDS

Lutheran churches in Indonesia have approved several steps to revitalize their commitment to fight the AIDS epidemic.

     Two conferences on HIV/AIDS called "Embracing Life: Our Common Responsibility" were organised by LWF (Lutheran World Federation) Indonesia from 6th to 10th November. Sixty youth delegates and church leaders attended.

     Among the steps they announced: setting up HIV/AIDS desks in each of Indonesia's 12 Lutheran churches, including HIV/AIDS in the curriculum of theological colleges, confirmation classes and even Sunday schools and raising funds in congregations to support HIV campaigns and those infected with the virus.

ANTO AKKARA reports for ENInews...  |  more... |

 

14th November, 2011

EVANGELICALS SUPPORT TURKEY'S EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS; ANCIENT CHURCH REOPENED

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited earthquake victims in eastern Turkey last Saturday, where evangelical Christians and Armenians are among those helping survivors of two deadly quakes in this predominantly Muslim area.

     The 23rd October tremor killed 604 people and destroyed at least 2,000 buildings in Ercis and in the city of Van, which was hit again by a magnitude 5.7 quake on 9th November.

     Yet, "a small evangelical church in Van is helping victims who are sleeping in tents around the church," explained Ava Thomas, a writer for the International Mission Board which supports missions around the world.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

7th November, 2011

MILLIONS TO PRAY FOR 'PERSECUTED CHURCH'

Churches in Britain and Ireland participated in the 'International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church' (IDOP) last Sunday, ahead of a similar global event this week.

     "Every five minutes a Christian is martyred for (his or her) faith", Christian advocacy group Christian Freedom International (CFI) said in a presentation.

     Organisers say they have been motivated to organise a worldwide IDOP on 13th November by Bible verses such as Hebrews 13: 3 - "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering," - and Psalm 10: 17 - "You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry."

      STEFAN J. BOS reports ahead of this week's International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church...  |  more... |

 

31st October, 2011

REMEMBERING IRAQ'S CHRISTIAN REFUGEES ONE YEAR AFTER BAGHDAD CHURCH MASSACRE

Monday, 31st October, 2011, marks the anniversary of last year's four-hour siege on a Syriac Catholic church in that ended with al-Qaida linked militants massacring 58 worshippers. The attack was the worst against Iraqi Christians since the US-led invasion in 2003 and enticed many of the already dwindling Christian population in Baghdad to leave the city permanently.

     Jowaneh Benjamin lost three daughters as a result of religious based violence targeting Christians in the Iraq war. Fleeing the country with her daughter Miriam, Jowaneh spent two years as a refugee in Syria and Turkey before being approved to immigrate to the United States.

     "We've had enough now. Leaving Iraq has become a must," Jamal Habo Korges, a Christian mechanic and father of three, told the United Nation's humanitarian news outlet IRIN. "We've been suffering since 2003 and we can't take it anymore. The latest carnage is the final warning."

In an article first published by Assist News Service, AIDAN CLAY reports on the situation for Iraq's Christians...  |  more... |

 

25th October, 2011

MALDIVES DEPORT INDIAN TEACHER FOR HAVING BIBLE

A Bible teacher has returned to his native India after being deported from the island nation of Maldives for having a Bible in his house, Christians with close knowledge about the situation said.

     Shijo Kokkattu, a 30-year-old Catholic, was deported last week following two weeks of detention, BosNewsLife has found.

     The teacher at Raafainu School in Maldives' administrative division of Raa Atoll was detained in late September after police found a Bible and rosary in his house during a raid, Christians said.
     While Kokkattu was relieved about his release, he reportedly expressed concerns in statements about other "innocent detainees" who are allegedly kept in police custody "on flimsy grounds or fabricated charges".

     A report from BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

17th October, 2011

FAITH GROUPS RESPOND TO URGENT ANTI-MALARIA APPEAL

Religious denominations have boosted efforts to provide families fleeing famine and drought in the Horn of Africa with insecticide treated bed nets, a mechanism experts say is most effective in halting the spread of malaria in Africa.

     In the US, the United Methodist Church and the Union for Reform Judaism on 12th October separately pledged contributions that will provide more than 12,000 nets through the Washington, DC-based UN Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign.

     "Malaria is a leading cause of death among refugees," said Paul Spiegel, Chief of Public Health at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) , quoted in the foundation's news release on 12th October. The foundation is supporting the refugee agency's appeal for 150,000 bed nets. "In addition to food and water, we need bed nets to keep these families safe," Spiegel added.

     FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

11th October, 2011

FIGHTING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS

"Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, in all societies, from the boy soldier in Sierra Leone traumatised by years of bloody civil war, to the mother affected by HIV/AIDS. Therefore it is crucial for the churches to challenge the stigma attached to mental illness,” Rev Kjell Magne Bondevik reminded churches at a service in Switzerland earlier this week.

     Speaking at a morning prayer service on World Mental Health Day held on October 10th, Rev Bondevik, a former Norwegian prime minister and minister of the Lutheran Church of Norway who is now moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, and president of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, underlined the importance of fighting the stigma which often surrounds mental illness.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

3rd October, 2011

LUTHERAN PASTOR APPOINTED DEAN OF ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL IN CANADA

In an historic move, the Anglican diocese of Rupert's Land appointed a Lutheran pastor, Rev Paul Johnson, as dean of the diocese and incumbent for St John's Cathedral in Winnipeg, reports the Anglican Journal.

     This is the first time a Canadian Lutheran pastor has been appointed dean in an Anglican cathedral in Canada. A dean is the priest in charge of a cathedral ("mother church") and occupies a senior position in a diocese.

     The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have been in full communion since 2001, which means their clergy may serve in one another's churches.

     A report from ENInews...  |  more... |

 

26th September, 2011

SUICIDE BOMBER ATTACKS US-BACKED CHURCH IN INDONESIA

A suicide bomber has attacked a Protestant church in Indonesia's Central Java province which has close ties with one of America's largest congregations.

     Pastor Rick Warren of the 20,000 strong Saddleback Church in Southern California confirmed the attack, in which the bomber died and over 20 others were injured.

     On his Facebook website and Internet messages service Twitter he wrote: "Purpose Driven Network Alert: Our sister church in Solo City, Indonesia, Bethel Full Gospel Church, has just been bombed."

     STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

19th September, 2011

ARGENTINIAN CHURCHES CELEBRATE THE "MONTH OF THE BIBLE"

In Argentina, as in many Latin American countries, September is a month to celebrate the Bible. Churches coordinate lectures, workshops and conferences for youth, according to a news release from the World Council of Churches.

     "Spending a month each year focusing on the Bible helps us to affirm the Word as an essential nutrient to our faith and our commitment to life and justice," said Pastor Gerardo Oberman, from the Reformed Churches of Argentina associated with the Evangelical Church of the River Plate (IERP), the WCC reported.

     A report from ENInews...  |  more... |

 

13th September, 2011

JAPAN MARKS SIX MONTHS SINCE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI

People of faith in Japan on 11th September marked the six-month anniversary of the 11th March earthquake and tsunami with prayer services, bell ringing and chants, many at 2:46pm, the time when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck.

     About 20,000 people are dead or missing, with an estimate 400,000 people displaced, according to the Japanese Red Cross.

     In Tokyo, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan and the National Christian Council in Japan held a joint worship service "to keep in mind the 11 March disaster, remember the dead, and seek comfort for the survivors and the restoration of the affected areas," according to organisers.

     HISASHI YUKIMOTO, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

6th September, 2011

CHRISTIANS IN PAKISTAN SPEAK UP TO STOP VIOLENCE IN KARACHI

Karachi is an economic hub, seaport, and the largest city in Pakistan, as well as the capital of the province of Sindh.

     The city, which has an estimated population of 13 to 15 million, while the total metropolitan area has a population of over 18 million, is home to a variety of people of different religions and ethnicity, and was once called 'a city of peace and lights'.

     But, for the last few years, the crime rate has been mounting with every passing day and over the past six months, due to various kinds of crimes, thousands of innocent people have been killed.

     ASHFAQ FATEH, of Assist News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

1st September, 2011

NIGERIAN FAITH LEADERS SEEK A PERMANENT END TO VIOLENCE

As the smoke dies out at the bombed United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, faith leaders are seeking urgent government action to end a recurrent and bloody cycle of religious violence in Africa's most populous nation.

     In the latest incident, Christian youths attacked Muslims gathering to celebrate the last day of Ramadan on 29th August in Jos city. At least 13 people were killed, property destroyed and cars burnt. This occurred barely a week after a radical Islamic group carried out a suicide car bomb attack at the UN complex on 26th August, leaving 23 people dead and several others injured.

     "We urge the relevant authorities to decisively act to permanently bring this trend to an end...to save precious lives and hard-earned properties," said Roman Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos diocese, quoted in media reports on 30th August. Archbishop Kaigama serves in the region between Nigeria's mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south.

     FREDRICK NZWILI, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

17th August, 2011

AIRBORNE MINISTRY HELPS FIGHT CHOLERA AND MEASLES EPIDEMICS IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

As cholera and measles sicken thousands in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a faith-based relief organisation that brings aid to needy people in remote areas of the world, is providing desperately needed flight services to assist medical agencies in their efforts to combat these deadly diseases.

     A measles epidemic has threatened the DRC for the past nine months. MAF has been flying medical workers and supplies into the areas most affected.

      According to a media release from the US-based ministry, in the past month the organisation has carried some 100 medical staff and 14,000 pounds of vaccines and medical supplies to support 24 mobile clinics that Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) has launched to fight measles.

     MICHAEL IRELAND, of Assist News Service, reports...  |  more... |

 

9th August, 2011

IRANIAN PASTOR ON DEATH ROW URGES FAITH IN CHRIST

An evangelical pastor who faces execution in Iran for refusing to abandon his Christian faith has urged fellow believers to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and the “Word of God” despite persecution, according to a letter obtained by BosNewsLife.

     Youcef Nadarkhani, 33, whose first name is also spelled as Yousef, was told last month by Iran’s Supreme Court that he can be executed if he does not recant his Christian faith and returns to Islam.

     But in a letter written behind bars earlier this year, Nadarkhani makes clear the Bible tells Christians to expect persecution and that he remains hopeful whatever the outcome of his trial in this strict Islamic nation.

     STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

25th July, 2011

HUNGARIAN CHURCHES DIVIDED OVER NEW RELIGION LAW

Christian leaders in Hungary have given mixed reactions to a restrictive new law on religion, with larger denominations welcoming its curbs on church activities and smaller groups voicing fears for their future.

     "We wanted a new law to make it more difficult to establish churches here - and we're happy the present government has now done something," said Zoltan Tarr, general secretary of the Hungarian Reformed Church, which claims around a fifth of the country's 9.9 million inhabitants as members.

     "We're very much for freedom of worship and believe everyone should have the right to practice their religion. But this law represents a positive step, since it excludes quite a few communities here which don't legitimately qualify as churches."

     JONATHAN LUXMOORE reports for ENInews...  |  more... |

 

19th July, 2011

NEW LEGISLATION INCREASES PRESSURE ON ARMENIAN EVANGELICALS...

Rights activists and religious groups in Armenia say new legislation will increase intolerance towards the country's evangelical Christians and other minorities, some of whom already face prosecution for their church activities.

     In statements obtained by BosNewsLife last week, they criticised a proposed new 'Religion Law' as well as changes to the 'Law on Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church' and to the Criminal and Administrative Codes.

     "In practice they would be used to repress religious organisations," warned Stepan Danielyan,who represents the Yerevan-based Collaboration for Democracy Center..

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  |  more... |

 

12th July, 2011

AMAZON GOLD RUSH THREATENS INDIAN TRIBES...

High prices for gold on world markets have triggered a gold rush without equal in the history of the Amazon basin. In just a decade, gold has more than tripled in value. The ensuing rush is endangering the lives of thousands of native Indian people.

     A gold rush that accelerated with the onset of the 2008 global recession is compounding the woes of the Amazon basin, laying waste its rain forests and spilling tons of toxic mercury into its rivers. All the way down the Amazon River in Brazil, the Ticuna Indians see their children sickening and dying because of the mercury in the water they drink.

     The government of Peru estimates that the number of illegally operating small-scale hydraulic miners has climbed to 40,000 in the country's Madre de Dios province alone. The jungles of Madre de Dios are home to a score of unprotected Indian tribes.

     In an article first published by Assist News Service, DALE W. KIETZMAN reports on how a Latin American gold rush is impacting Indian tribal societies...  |  more... |

 

4th July, 2011

IRANIAN COURT OVERTURNS DEATH SENTENCE FOR PASTOR

Iran's secretive Supreme Court has reportedly overturned a death sentence handed down to an evangelical pastor for leaving Islam, surprising trial observers who were earlier informed about an execution ruling.

     However concerns remained about the future of 33-year-old Yousef Nadarkhani, as he remained under pressure to recant his faith in Christ, his lawyer and Christians said.

     "The Supreme Court has annulled the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in (his hometown) Rasht, asking the accused to repent," said his lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, in a statement to French news agency AFP.

     The verdicts can be overturned if the convicted person "repents" and "renounces" his conversion, experts say. Evangelicals argue it's impossible to renounce their faith as the Bible teaches they have become "born again" and a "new creation" after they "accepted" Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife.com, reports...  |  more... |

 

27th June, 2011

ESSAY: UZBEK CHRISTIANS SUFFER AS REGIME TIGHTENS NOOSE

At least four incidents of Christian persecution were reported from the former Soviet country of Uzbekistan this week. A Christian woman was beaten into concussion, another woman was fined $US1,465 by a court for giving the New Testament to a child, a Christian man was threatened with axe attack by a police official and another man was assaulted by police.

     The spurt can be linked to renewed attempts to maintain hold on power and the communist legacy in this most populous country of Central Asia by its president, Islam Karimov, who has remained in office through controversial referendums since 1991. Karimov’s objectives can be met only under an authoritarian rule where the executive has powers over all other state institutions including the judiciary and that’s what best describes the government of Uzbekistan.

     In a report written for the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission, FERNANDO PEREZ looks at the issue of religious freedom in Uzbekistan...  |  more... |

 

14th June, 2011

CONCERN OVER REPORTS THREE US CHRISTIANS ASKED TO LEAVE INDIA FOR EVANGELISING

An international advocacy group urged the US government to condemn Indian authorities for reportedly asking three American Christians to leave India because they allegedly participated in evangelism.

     "We urge the US government to look into this matter and take appropriate measures to pressure India to respect the religious freedom of Christians and other religious minorities," explained Jonathan Racho, regional manager for South Asia of US-based International Christian Concern (ICC).

     The influential newspaper Times of India said 50-year-old Shelly Louise Deeds, a nurse from Pennsylvania, her daughter Katelyn Heather Deeds, 15, and Diane Gean Harrington, a teacher at Wisconsin, were "asked to leave" the country after Hindu organisations "complained" they "tried to convert poor families" in India's southern state of Kerala.

     STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife.com, reports...  |  more... |

 

14th June, 2011

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY'S COMMENTS ON KEY POLICIES PROVOKES SHARP RESPONSE FROM GOVERNMENT

In a strongly-worded opinion piece in the 9th June issue of The New Statesman, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, took a stand against recent economic, criminal justice, and healthcare reforms proposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

     Archbishop Williams, launching his broadside as guest editor of the weekly journal, said Britain's coalition government is forcing through "radical policies for which no one voted."

     He questioned whether democratic legitimacy existed for flagship policies on welfare, health and education, which we he said were causing "anxiety and anger." He also dismissed Mr Cameron's "Big Society" initiative for the voluntary sector to play a greater role in providing services as "painfully stale" and condemned what he described as punitive action against alleged abuses of the benefit system.

     MARTIN REVIS, of ENInews, reports from London...  |  more... |

 

9th June, 2011

LAST ETHIOPIAN JEWS RETURN TO ISRAEL, SAYS CHRISTIAN GROUP

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) said this week it would help organise "the return of the last 8,700 Ethiopian Jews to Israel" by sponsoring what are known as "Aliyah" flights, the coming months.

The Jerusalem-based organisation told BosNewsLife it was asked for urgent assistance by the Jewish Agency, which claims to have brought more than three million Jews to Israel since the state's establishment in 1948.

     Howard Flower, ICEJ's director of Aliyah operations, called the Ethiopians' Aliyah -- the Jewish religious word for immigration to Israel -- "urgent given the current drought and political turmoil in the region."

He said Jews face food shortages and the prospect that the chaotic revolutions in the Arab world might spread to Ethiopia.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  |  more... |

 

27th May, 2011

CHURCHES COMMIT TO PEACE ACTION AS HISTORIC CONVOCATION CLOSES

Participants at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) have released a message expressing their unified experience of a week-long exploration of a just peace.

Their commitment is to navigate a path forward in implementing what they have discussed and discovered, as they return to their homes and churches across the world.

     Attempting to take into account each other's contexts and histories, IEPC participants were unified in their aspiration that war should become illegal and that peace is central in all religious traditions.

     The message states: “With partners of other faiths, we have recognised that peace is a core value in all religions, and the promise of peace extends to all people regardless of their traditions and commitments. Through intensified inter-religious dialogue we seek common ground with all world religions.”

     A report from Ekklesia on the closing of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation meeting in Kingston, Jamaica...  |  more... |

 

21st May, 2011

SERIOUS THREATS TO THE PLANET ADDRESSED AT PEACE CONVOCATION

Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia, is home to more than 11,000 people, whose very existence, which at one time was tied to the ocean and its bounty, is now threatened by rising ocean water levels.

     The world's fourth-smallest country – at 26 square kilometers – is shrinking, and the people of Tuvalu are facing a future as environmental refugees. The injustice in this situation – and others like it worldwide – were at the heart of discussions at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) on Friday, when the daily theme was “Peace With the Earth.”

     A report from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation meeting in Kingston, Jamaica...  |  more... |

 

14th May, 2011

EU URGED TO MAKE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM PRIORITY AFTER DEADLY CLASHES

A Christian member of the European Parliament has urged the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, to make more rights for Egyptian Christians, also known as Copts, a policy priority and to develop an EU strategy for religious freedom.

     Peter van Dalen of the Dutch ChristenUnie, or 'ChristianUnion' party, told BosNewsLife he made his appeal after meeting some 60 Copts in the European Parliament. "They cried for help," the parliamentarian said about the February talks.

      Copts claim they suffer discrimination and violence. At least a dozen people died over the weekend in the latest attacks by Islamists against Copts, who comprise about 10 per cent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population, according to officials and Christians.

     STEFAN J BOS, of BosNewsLife.com, reports...  |  more... |

 

4th May, 2011

INDIAN CHURCHES CHALLENGED TO ADDRESS CASTE DISCRIMINATION

Churches in India were called upon to tackle "institutional casteism" at a conference organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in collaboration with Indian churches and groups.

     Attended by over 70 delegates, the 1st to 4th May conference on "Caste, Religion and Culture" was organized by the WCC Commission for World Mission and Evangelism in collaboration with the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI). The Student Christian Movement of India and the Centre for Social Studies and Culture based in Kerala state also participated.

     "Institutional casteism has not been properly discussed in India...and the colloquium has drawn attention to the need for addressing the issue at all levels," said a statement released at the end of the conference.

     ANTO AKKARA, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

25th April, 2011

ESSAY: EMBATTLED BEIJING CHURCH STUBBORN ON OUTDOOR PRAYERS?

Since the embattled Beijing Shouwang Church had its first outdoor public Sunday service in a snowstorm on 1st November, 2009, the world has been watching. Now Beijing's largest underground "house" church is making headlines again. Some 300 parishioners have been arrested these last two Sunday's for worshiping outdoors, without state permission.

     Why would its members insist to pray in the open air and risk being detained, fired, threatened, or forced to move out of their rented homes?

     The question was raised by church leaders. Bloggers soon followed. "Was Shouwang Church right to meet publicly?" "What is the good for the church to disobey the government?" "Why can't Christians be good citizens and law-abiders?", they asked. Others said the church must compromise to stay out of trouble.

      In an article first published by BosNewsLife.com, ELIZABETH, a member of the Beijing Shouwang Church, gives her view on recent events during which several hundred of the church's parishioners were arrested...  |  more... |

 

11th April, 2011

CHINA DETAINS MEMBERS OF LARGEST HOUSE CHURCH

Chinese police detained "over 100 members" of one of China's largest unregistered Protestant churches on 10th April, after its members tried to hold an open-air prayer meeting in the capital Beijing, a Christian rights group said.

     The US-based China Aid Association (CAA), which has close ties with Christians in China, said members of the Shouwang Church were met by scores of police, including plain clothes officers, when they gathered in a square outside a commercial complex in Beijing's Zhongguancun district.

     Reporters put the number of those detained slightly lower saying police forced "scores" of parishioners into buses and blocked church leaders from leaving their homes. The New York Times newspaper said among those detained was its photographer, who was later released. It was not clear how many Christians had been freed and Chinese officials did not reveal more details.

      BosNewsLife.com reports...  |  more... |

 

1st April, 2011

EVANGELIST LUIS PALAU JOINS VIETNAM'S FIRST PROTESTANT CELEBRATIONS IN DECADES

International evangelist Luis Palau will travel to Vietnam to participate in the first celebrations of the establishment of the country's Protestant church since the end of the Vietnam War.

     The gatherings in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, Hanoi, and Danang, mark the 100th anniversary of Vietnam's Protestant church in the Asian nation, said the Oregon-based Luis Palau Association in a statement.
     "The gatherings will be the first of their kind since the country's reunification in 1975," the group said.

     Palau, who was born in Argentina before moving to the United States, will travel to Vietnam for a series of region-wide celebration events, starting with gatherings in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in April, organisers said.

     BosNewsLife.com reports...  |  more... |

 

22nd March, 2011

CALLS FOR "WATER JUSTICE" ON WORLD WATER DAY

Humanitarian and advocacy groups are marking the 22nd March commemoration of World Water Day with renewed focus on the need for "water justice."

     "The global water crisis is going to be one of the 'hot topics' and key issues of the 21st century," Luciano Kovacs, the North America regional secretary of the World Student Christian Federation, told ENInews. "Water could become the oil of the 21st century."

     The Geneva-based federation has initiated a global water justice campaign that begins on 22nd March. It is asking its local movements of ecumenical student groups to participate in an international effort to take action against the problems of "water scarcity, water pollution and water commercialisation and privatisation," viewing them as "serious threats to our fellow people of Earth, the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalised, with whom we are called to walk in solidarity."

    CHRIS HERLINGER, of ENInews, reports...  |  more... |

 

11th March, 2011

THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS FLEE DEADLY VIOLENCE IN ETHIOPIA; CHURCHES BURNED

Thousands of Christians are fleeing violence in western Ethiopia where Muslim extremists killed several Christians and burned dozens of churches, rights activists and officials said this week.

     Advocacy group Barnabas Fund, which supports Christians in the Muslim-majority area, told BosNewsLife that 55 churches and dozens of homes are reported to have been torched in recent days near the city of Jimma, in western Oromia region, "with many more properties looted by the mob."

     Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said in a radio interview that two Christians had been killed in the incidents in the town of Asendabo and surrounding areas and that police reinforcements had moved in to restore order.

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  |  more... |

 

5th March, 2011

TAIWANESE CHURCH LEADER URGES ABOLITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY

A Catholic prison ministry leader, Cheng Tao, has called on the Taiwanese government to abolish the death penalty, as the justice minister indicated another round of executions may take place in a few weeks.

     “Our government should replace the death penalty with lifetime imprisonment to show to the world that Taiwan cherishes human life,” said Cheng, who is president of the Association of Chinese Catholic Prison Ministry.
     Taiwan's president Ma Ying-jeou siad recently that the government would reduce the number of executions before society reached a consensus on the controversial issue.

     A report from Ekklesia...  |  more... |

 

17th February,, 2011

NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS CONCERNED AMID NEW DEADLY CLASHES

Tensions remained high in Nigeria's Plateau State this week where up to eight people were killed and more injured in sectarian clashes sparked by the stabbing of a police officer.

     Witnesses said Tuesday's violence in the city of Jos included a gang setting up a roadblock in one neighborhood, leading to up to four deaths. Others, including Christians, said up to four more people were murdered and their bodies set ablaze elsewhere, including in the Gada-Biu area.

     There were also reports that tires, cars and motorcycles were burned as well.

     STEFAN J BOS reports for BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

9th February,, 2011

INTERNATIONAL PETITION LAUNCHED AS AFGHAN CHRISTIANS FACE EXECUTION

Christian rights activists this week launched an international petition urging Afghanistan to release detained converts to Christianity amid fears they may be executed.

     Barnabas Fund, an advocacy group closely following the case, told BosNewsLife that among Christian prisoners in "immediate danger" are 45-year-old Said Musa, a father of six, and another Christian, identified as Shoaib Assadullah, 25. Both men could face execution on charges of apostasy, or abandoning Islam, a crime punished by death under Islamic law and upheld by Afghanistan's constitution.

     STEFAN J BOS reports for BosNewsLife...  |  more... |

 

28th January, 2011

MUSLIM POPULATION EXPECTED TO RISE BY 35 PER CENT BY 2030, SAYS REPORT

The world's Muslim population is expected to rise by about 35 per cent by 2030, according to projections from the US-based Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

     The figures show that the Muslim population, currently at 1.6 billion, is expected to rise to 2.2 billion in the next 20 years, making up 26.4 per cent of the world's total projected population of 8.3 billion.

     The data also shows that if current trends continue, 79 countries will have a million or more Muslim inhabitants (up from 72) with the largest number of Muslims - 1.3 billion - living in Asia-Pacific region (up from one billion today).

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |

 

21st January, 2011

SOUTHERN SUDANESE VOTE FOR SECESSION

Almost 99 per cent of southern Sudanese who voted in the country's recent referendum have backed the secession of the south, according to preliminary results.

     Figures from the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) show that as at 21st January, 98.6 per cent have voted for secession. The official results are expected to be released in early February.

     Almost 3.2 million votes were cast in the election with the turnout well past the minimum number of people required (60 per cent of the four million voters) for the referendum to be ruled valid.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |  

 

13th January, 2011

PAKISTANI MINORITIES MINISTER URGES REFORM OF BLASPHEMY LAW

Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law must be reformed to avoid more bloodletting of Christian minorities in Pakistan, the country's Minorities’ Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, has told Assist News Service.

    “The blasphemy law has to be amended. We cannot condone contempt of any religion or religious personality, but this law is being abused by Muslim extremists to victimise minorities,” Bhatti, a Catholic, told ANS.

     Bhatti’s comments came the same day an anti-terrorism court in the central Pakistani town of Muzafarghar said that it had jailed two Muslim men for life on blasphemy charges.

     JAWAD MAZHAR reports for Assist News Service...  |  more... |  

 

3rd January, 2011

EGYPT'S MUBARAK CONDEMNS CHURCH BOMBING IN WHICH 21 KILLED

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has urged citizens of all faiths, including Christian Copts and Muslims, to resist "terrorist acts", after a church bombing killed at least 21 people and injured nearly 80 others.

     Witnesses said a powerful bomb, possibly from a suicide attacker, exploded just a half hour into the New Year in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria where worshipers had gathered to celebrate Mass on New Year's Eve.

     Egypt's Interior Ministry said a foreign-backed suicide bomber may have been responsible.

A report from BosNewsLife.com...  |  more... |  

 

20th December, 2010

IRAQ'S CHRISTIANS FACE EXTINCTION, SAYS REPORT

Christmas should be a time of great joy for all Christians. But festivities appear unlikely this year for believers living in Iraq.

     In a news release, Barnabas Fund said it received a heart rending report from a senior church leader who assists Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria.

     Barnabas Fund said the report reveals the desperate plight of the Christians still inside Iraq. That plight has worsened since the October attack on a church in Baghdad, and Al-Qaeda's statement that all Christians and Christian institutions were “legitimate targets.”

     Barnabas Fund called the report a message that needs to be heard urgently by governments and Christians in the West.

     JEREMY REYNOLDS reports for Assist News Service...  |  more... |  

 

13th December, 2010

SIX OUT OF 10 BELIEVE CORRUPTION ON THE RISE, SAYS REPORT

Six out of 10 people around the world believe corruption has increased, according to the findings of the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer.

      The report, released by Transparency International earlier this month, also found that one in four people said they had paid a bribe in the past year. Police are said to be the most frequent recipient of bribes with 29 per cent of people who said they’d had contact with police reporting paying a bribe.

More than 91,000 people living in 86 different countries and territories were surveyed for the report.  

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  |  more... |  

 

6th December, 2010

"DON'T BUY ZIMBABWEAN DIAMONDS", URGES SWISS CHURCH GROUP

The Swiss church-backed group Bread for All says numerous human rights violations are being committed in certain Zimbabwe's diamond mines by state security forces and the minerals should be labelled "blood diamonds".

     Bread for All (Switzerland) is calling on the government of Switzerland, as a member of the Kimberley Process, to demand the exclusion of certain Zimbabwean diamonds tainted by links to human rights' violation from international trade.

     Marlon Zakeyo, who heads the Zimbabwe Advocacy Office in Geneva, told ENInews, "Switzerland is an important jewellery centre, but it is also known as a country that is a centre for human rights. The Swiss government is also a key partner in the Kimberley Process, which deals with international diamond trading."

     PETER KENNY reports for ENInews...  |  more... |  

 

18th November, 2010

MALAWI'S CATHOLIC BISHOPS WARN RULERS ON GOOD GOVERNANCE

Malawi's Roman Catholic bishops have called on their government not to use its numerical parliamentary strength to suppress minority views about the way the country should be run.

     "When we emerged from the 2009 elections, our hopes were high for peace, stability and development for all. Somewhat more than a year later, our hopes are slowly fading away," said the Catholic bishops in a pastoral letter made available to ENInews.

     "The majority the ruling party enjoys in parliament was meant to facilitate government business and progress, but unfortunately it has bred a spirit of overconfidence on the part of government," said the bishops.

     FRANK JOMO reports for ENInews...  |  more... |  

 

8th November, 2010

FIRST NEW CATHOLIC SEMINARY IN 50 YEARS INAUGURATED IN CUBA

Cuba's Catholic bishops have inaugurated the country's first major church-related construction in the half century since Fidel Castro's revolution.

President Raul Castro was a guest of honour at the ceremony to mark the launch of the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary.

Cuba's bishops and representatives of the Vatican and the Catholic Church in the United States, Mexico, Italy and the Bahamas were among those present in Havana on 3rd November, 2010.

     Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana reminded the gathering that the late Pope John Paul II blessed the first stone of the new seminary at a Mass during his January 1998 visit to the island.

     A report from Ekklesia...  |  more... |  

 

31st October, 2010

CHRISTIANS URGED TO PRAY FOR FORTHCOMING REFERENDUM IN SUDAN

Christians in Sudan, especially the southern part of the country, are soliciting prayers in respect to the forthcoming referendum that will be held on 9th January, 2011, which will determine whether south should become independent from the north.

     Open Doors UK and Ireland said in a report that its co-workers in southern Sudan explained that conflicting views between the political leaders pose a serious concern for the church, and have asked Christians around the world to lift them up in prayer.

     SUCCESS KANAYO UCHIME reports for Assist News Service...  |  more... |  

 

20th October, 2010

CELEBRATING RECONCILIATION IN CAPE TOWN

More than 4,000 invited guests from nearly 200 nations have descended on Cape Town, South Africa, this week to strategise how to evangelise the world for Christ in the 21st Century.

    Tens of thousands more around the globe tuned in via GlobaLink to the opening day of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization when it opened in Cape Town last Sunday.

     The congress is the brainchild of evangelist Dr Billy Graham, who founded its parent organisation known as The Lausanne Movement, which is uniquely placed to reaffirm the primary truths of Biblical Christianity.

     MICHAEL IRELAND reports for Assist News Service...  |  more... |  

 

14th October, 2010

HONG KONG CHRISTIANS URGE RELEASE OF NOBEL LAUREATE

Hong Kong Christian leaders have urged the government in Beijing to release 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who was honoured for his "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

     Representatives from the Roman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong and the Christian Concern Hong Kong Society joined activists in petitioning the Chinese government's liaison office in Hong Kong soon after the announcement of the prize in Oslo on 8th October.

     They asked Beijing to release Liu, who initiated the "08 Charter" that asked for greater democracy and respect for human rights. More than 10,000 people in China and overseas had signed the charter.

     FRANCIS WONG reports for ENInews...  |  more... |  

 

5th October, 2010

CHRISTIAN LEADERS LAMENT DURING NIGERIA'S 50th ANNIVERSARY

Christian leaders in Nigeria have joined in marking 50 years of independence in Africa's most populous nation but have also called for divine intervention because of their concern for the state of the nation.  

    "Though it might seem like there is not much to jubilate about in the nation, prophetically and by faith, we celebrate Jubilee. We believe that as God sees our faith, He will give us cause to be jubilant as we begin the journey of another 50 years," said the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

    He was speaking at a media conference in the country's capital Abuja on 1st October, 50 years to the day since Nigeria achieved its independence from the Britain in 1960.

     LEKAN OTUFODUNRIN reports from Lagos for ENInews...  | more... |  

 

19th September, 2010

ROMANIAN CHURCH LEADERS SAY ROMA EXPULSIONS WRONG

A Catholic bishop in Romania has deplored the mass expulsion of Roma from France, and he has urged European governments to do more to integrate the continent's Gypsy minorities.

     "There are substantial Roma communities in all European countries, not just Romania and Bulgaria," said Virgil Bercea, the Greek Catholic bishop of Oradea. "When the French drive them out, all they do is return to visit their families and then travel somewhere else, whether back to France, or on to Italy, Spain or Germany."

     JONATHAN LUXMOORE reports for ENInews...  | more... |

 

13th September, 2010

POPE TO DEFEND RELIGION AGAINST RISING SECULARISM DURING UK VISIT

Pope Benedict XVI is likely to focus on religious freedom during the first official State visit by a pontiff to Britain, where secularism is growing and Christianity declining.

     The Pope is also likely to face scrutiny at a time of global questioning of secrecy in the Roman Catholic Church and the attitudes of its hierarchy on social issues that are seen as out of step with the norms of many people.

     Benedict will arrive in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh on 16th September for the first papal visit to Britain since 1982, when his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, drew big crowds on a six-day trip that was described as a pastoral, rather than a State, occasion.

     TREVOR GRUNDY reports for ENInews...  | more... |

 

6th September, 2010

BUDAPEST REOPENS OLDEST SYNAGOGUE

After some 60 years, the oldest synagogue in Hungary's capital Budapest will reopen for the public on 8th September, just in time for the Jewish New Year.

     The synagogue was forced to close its doors following the Holocaust, when Hungary became a Communist nation. Israel has described the event as proof of a revival of Jewish culture and religion in the country, despite concerns about anti-Semitism here.

     Ahead of this week's Jewish New Year prayers, a huge crowd, including Holocaust survivors, attended a dedication ceremony where a scroll of the Torah, the Jewish scriptures, was carefully carried into the 190-year old Obuda Synagogue.

     STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports...  | more... |

 

17th August, 2010

TRIBUTES MARK 70 YEARS OF TAIZE SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY

World Christian leaders are paying tribute to the ecumenical community of Taizé in eastern France, which is marking its foundation in 1940 by Brother Roger Schutz, who died in 2005.

     In a message in advance of the 14th August commemoration to Brother Alois, who now heads the community, Pope Benedict XVI described Schutz as a "pioneer in the difficult paths toward unity among the disciples of Christ".

     "Seventy years ago, he began a community that continues to see thousands of young adults, searching for meaning in their lives, come to it from around the world, welcoming them in prayer and allowing them to experience a personal relationship with God," Pope Benedict said.

     STEPHEN BROWN, of Ecumenical News International, reports...  | more... |

 

1st August, 2010

NEW YMCA PRESIDENT SAYS YOUTH MUST TAKE ON GLOBAL LEADERSHIP

The new president of the World Alliance of YMCAs has said the movement will do more to provide services to people in need, and must "work urgently" to help young people take up leadership roles in global affairs.

     "For the first time in our world's history, most of our global population will become urbanised, primarily in the world's poorest countries, where safety, sanitation and health care are often scarce," the new president of the world alliance, Kenneth B. Colloton, told the 24th July closing session of the YMCAs' world council in Hong Kong.

    FRANCIS WONG, of Ecumenical News International, reports...  | more... |

 

26th July, 2010

TUTU ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT PLANS, THANKS SOUTH AFRICANS

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has announced his intention to wind down his public engagements, when he turns 79 in October.

     "I think I have done as much as I can, and I really do need time for other things that I have wanted to do," Archbishop Tutu told a 22nd July media briefing at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town. He also thanked South Africans for their contribution to the world.

   Tutu became the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1978, and then in 1986 the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, a post from which he retired in 1996.

     MUNYARADZI MAKONI, of Ecumenical News International, reports...  | more... |

 

12th July, 2010

THOUSANDS MOURN SREBRENICA VICTIMS, CRITICISE UN, ON MASSACRE'S 15TH ANNIVERSARY
Tens of thousands of people have commemorated the 15th anniversary of Europe's worst massacre since World War II in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Survivors have expressed frustration over the United Nation's perceived failure to prevent the killing of more than 8,000 Muslims by Serb forces in July, 1995.
      In the summer heat, huge crowds of mourning Muslims attended the biggest funeral near the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica.
      A hillside was dug out with graves for 775 green-draped coffins of recently identified victims of Europe's largest mass killing since the Holocaust. The youngest victims were two boys, aged 14, who were laid to rest alongside thousands of bodies already in the graveyard.
      STEFAN J. BOS, of BosNewsLife, reports... | more... |

 

6th July, 2010

CHRISTIANS AMONG THOSE "STARVING" IN NIGER, SAYS AID GROUP

Christians in this vast, drought-prone country on the edge of the Sahara desert, are among those facing starvation after aid groups described the food situation in Niger as "extremely desperate".

     Save the Children warned that up to 380,000 children under five are at risk of death by starvation. Christian aid and advocacy group Barnabas Fund told BosNewsLife Christians are "particularly vulnerable during this time of crisis," as they comprise just 0.3 per cent of the predominantly Muslim population of over 15 million people.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  | more... |

 

25th June, 2010

NATIVE AMERICAN TELLS CHURCHES "IT'S TIME FOR A TRUTH COMMISSION"

A Native American leader has challenged a global Protestant body to create a truth and reconciliation commission to redress the injustice of church involvement in cultural assimilation against indigenous peoples.

     Richard Twiss, a member of the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux Tribe, said the church had been, "a willing partner", in the oppression of Native Americans.

     He spoke at the founding meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

     Native Americans had numbered 50 million in 1,400 but by 1895 accounted for barely 230,000, as a results of war and disease, Twiss said on 22nd June.

    STEPHEN BROWN, of Ecumenical News International, reports...  | more... |

 

15th June, 2010

PRAYERS AND WORSHIP RING OUT FROM WEST HAM STADIUM

As the constant humming sound of trumpets are heard in stadiums across South Africa during the world cup, worship and fervent prayers echoed around West Ham stadium on Sunday 13th June at the Global Day of Prayer London's national day of prayer.

     "We stand on turf consecrated to the beautiful game at the beginning of the World Cup and today as Christians we are celebrating the beautiful life through the power of the Holy Spirit," said the Bishop of Barking Rt Revd David Hawkins from the stage.

He added: "We want to thank you for coming together to pray in unity for the transformation of the city and our nation."

    PETER WOODING reports for Assist News Service...  | more... |

 

9th June, 2010

EVANGELICAL GROUP CONDEMNS UZBEKISTAN CRACKDOWN ON CHURCHES

An influential evangelical organisation, which claims to represent over 400 million Christians worldwide, has expressed concerns about police raids on Protestant congregations in Uzbekistan and the detention of several Christians in the former Soviet republic.

     The Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) of the World Evangelical Alliance said last week it was especially concerned about a recent police raid on one of the largest Protestant churches in the capital Tashkent where police "without a warrant" detained eight church members and seized properties.

    A report from Bosnewslife...  | more... |

 

28th May, 2010

REPRESSION AND INJUSTICE 'FLOURISHING' SAYS AMNESTY IN ANNUAL HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

Governments are blocking advances in international justice by “standing above the law on human rights, shielding allies from criticism and acting only when politically convenient”, according to Amnesty International.

     The organisation, which this week released its annual State of the World’s Human Rights report, says this power politics is widening a “global justice gap”.
     "Repression and injustice are flourishing in the global justice gap, condemning millions of people to abuse, oppression and poverty," said Claudio Cordone, interim secretary general of Amnesty International, in a statement.

    DAVID ADAMS reports...  | more... |

 

21st May, 2010

NEW WAVE OF CHRISTIAN EXPULSIONS FROM MOROCCO

Twenty-three foreigners have been notified of expulsion from Morocco since 10th May, marking a second wave of Christian deportations from the country, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).

     A spokesman for the US Embassy in Morocco in an interview with ICC said, "We are very concerned about this.    While there were fewer Americans in this round than there were in the first round of this in early March, we're still following it very closely, and we have expressed concern, as have other diplomatic missions here, to the Moroccan authorities about this."

     MICHAEL IRELAND reports for Assist News Service...  | more... |

 

16th May, 2010

KENYAN CHURCHES LAUNCH 'NO' CAMPAIGN WITH PRAYER RALLY

Christians in Kenya have held a national prayer rally in support of their campaign for a "No" vote in a pending constitutional referendum.

     At the 8th May event, organised by Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, Christians waved red cards, singing and dancing to gospel music to signal their rejection of the proposed draft constitution. The referendum is scheduled for August.

     "I urge you to have a dream; to have a dream of another Kenya founded on justice and equality before the law, to have a dream where all people embrace and practice their religious beliefs without inference," said the Rev Peter Karanja, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya.

    FREDRICK NZWILI reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

10th May, 2010

CLERICS PLEAD WITH US OFFICIALS TO PROTECT IRAQ CHRISTIANS

US National Council of Churches' officials have asked their national authorities to take steps to protect Christians in Iraq as well as members of other threatened minority groups due to continuing violence and political uncertainty.

     Leaders from the biggest ecumenical agency in the United Sates sent a letter on 26th April to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

     The NCC officials asked Clinton and Gates to urge Iraqi authorities and commanders of US-led forces in Iraq to take steps to minimise violence affecting the beleaguered Iraqi Christian community and others who continue to face threats and acts of violence.

    CHRIS HERLINGER reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

4th May, 2010

NEPAL'S CHRISTIANS HOLD VIGIL FOR NEW SECULAR CONSTITUTION

Hundreds of Christians have held their first public vigil in the Nepalese capital to pressure the government into implementing a new, secular constitution within a stipulated deadline.

     Their vigil comes during a period of growing anxiety that the country's political parties may bungle their task on the basic law of the country and that Nepal could become a Hindu State again.

    SUDESHNA SARKAR reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

24th April, 2010

BACKGROUNDER SPECIAL: WATCHING KYRGYZSTAN - AN OPPORTUNITY FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY BUT THREATS ABOUND

In the late 1980s, President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced social and political reform to the Union of Soviet Social Republics (USSR) through perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). By 1990, Communism had fallen and the Cold War had ended. At that point, various megalomaniacs - that is, men who wanted to be presidents rather than prime ministers, governors or generals - set about exploiting ethnic nationalism in order to tear the centuries-old Russian Federation apart.

     By the end of 1991, Kyrgyzstan was independent under the leadership of Askar Akayev, an intellectual and scientist appointed by Gorbachev. Kyrgyzstan was unique amongst its neighbours in that it was the only Central Asian former Soviet Republic not under the control of a former Soviet apparatchik (that is, not a professional functionary of the Communist Party).

     ELIZABETH KENDAL explains the background to recent events in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan...  | more... |

 

17th April, 2010

POLISH CHURCHES UNITE IN GRIEF OVER PRESIDENT AND DISASTER VICTIMS

The death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and an entourage in a plane crash in western Russia has united Poles as well as Christian leaders from the country who lost nine clergy in the accident.

     "Poland is experiencing its greatest tragedy of post-War times," bishops from the minority Evangelical Augsburg (Lutheran) church said in a pastoral letter dated 10th April.

     "The post-Easter Annunciation gains a profound character in the context of this experience. For we are forced to contemplate the joyful Easter message which, in the face of death, allows us through our faith to look beyond the grave towards eternity," the bishops stated.

     JONATHAN LUXMOORE reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |


30th March, 2010

AFRICAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS CALL FOR STRONG ARMS TRADE TREATY

African religious leaders meeting in the Rwandan capital of Kigali have called on their governments to support calls for a strong and comprehensive treaty against arms trading so that funds can be redirected into development.

     After their 23rd to 25th March meeting, Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders said such an agreement would reduce the human cost associated with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and control illegal dealing.

     "When you manufacture guns, you have to find a market. When you find a market, you cause trouble, you cause conflict, so it becomes an endless cycle. We shall never stop it until we say enough is enough of killing ourselves," Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda told Ecumenical News International in Kigali on 24th March. "But now that has to stop, so that we can build a peaceful Africa."

     FREDRICK NZWILI reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

24th March, 2010

CHRISTIANS URGED TO JOIN GLOBAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR SUDAN AHEAD OF DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS

The people of Sudan will participate in the country's first democratic elections in 24 years this April.

     According to international Christian relief organisation Samaritan's Purse, it is an historic time for a nation that has endured decades of civil war, and also a time of fear and anxiety.

     Free and fair elections could help lay a foundation for lasting peace, but if violence erupts, it could rekindle a civil war that has already claimed the lives of millions.

     MICHAEL IRELAND reports for Assist News Service...  | more... |

 

10th March, 2010

SALVATION ARMY CHAMPIONS MORAL CASE FOR "ROBIN HOOD TAX"

The poor are becoming poorer and the rich need to step in and redress the balance, the Salvation Army said this week, during a debate in London.
      The comments came as a representative spoke up for the Robin Hood Tax campaign during a discussion at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

     Keynote speaker Professor Jeffrey Sachs international economist and author of The End of Poverty, actor Bill Nighy, fellow campaigner and screenwriter Richard Curtis, and Dr Clare Melamed, head of policy co-ordination Action Aid were joined by Major Ivor Telfer, The Salvation Army’s secretary for programme for the UK and Ireland territory. Alan Beattie, World Trade editor at the Financial Times, chaired the event.

     A report from Ekklesia...  | more... |

 

7th March, 2010

ZIMBABWE TRADE UNION LEADER FORCED TO FLEE, SAY CHRISTIAN STUDENTS

The World Student Christian Federation and its Zimbabwe Advocacy Office say they are shocked at recent attacks on trade union leaders by police and security forces in Zimbabwe during a period when the southern African country is trying to reconcile bitter divides.

     In a statement sent to Ecumenical News International on 4th March, the general secretary of the student federation, the Rev Michael Wallace, and the coordinator of the Zimbabwe office in Geneva, Marlon Zakeyo, said that three days earlier, police raided and ransacked offices of the General Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union of Zimbabwe in Harare.

     PETER KENNY reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

21st February, 2010

NEW COUNCIL OF CHRISTIAN CHURCH LEADERS ESTABLISHED IN IRAQ

The leadership of the World Council of Churches has welcomed "with great hope and deep satisfaction" the news that a Council of Christian Church Leaders of Iraq has been established.

     "In our view, it is a development that augurs as much for the future of the churches in Iraq as it does for Iraq as a nation," the WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, wrote in an 18th February, 2010, congratulatory message to the members of the new body.

     The council includes all patriarchs, archbishops, bishops and heads of churches in Iraq from the 14 Christian communities registered in Iraq since 1982, belonging to the Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox as well as Protestant traditions.

     A report from Ekklesia...  | more... |

 

7th February, 2010

BIBLEFRESH CAMPAIGN TO ENCOURAGE CONFIDENCE IN THE SCRIPTURES LAUNCHES WITH UK TOUR

    Biblefresh, a movement to help the church gain appetite and confidence in God's word last week launched a 13 city tour in cities across the UK, including Belfast, Manchester, Liverpool, Bournemouth, London and Exeter.

     The tour will be exploring the theme of "The Bible: Tedious, Taboo and Toxic, or Transforming, Treasured and True?" and sharing the vision for practical ways churches can re-engage with the Bible.

     The Biblefresh partnership of over 50 agencies, festivals, colleges and denominations have joined forces to see churches grow their confidence in the scriptures during 2011, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible.

     PETER WOODING reports for Assist News Service...  | more... |

 

27th January, 2010

2009 "WORST YEAR" FOR PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS

     Last year was the worst period of persecution against Christians in Pakistan in the last decade, with attacks, arrests and detentions that reportedly killed some 130 Christians across the Islamic country, an advocacy group has claimed.
       In one of the bloodiest single incidents, in August, eight Christians were shot or burnt alive in the town of Gojrain Punjab province when he Christian community was attacked by a mob of 3,000 Muslims over alleged blasphemy ofIslam, said the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS).

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  | more... |

 

13th January, 2010

POLICE IDENTIFY SUSPECT IN MALAYSIAN CHURCH ATTACKS

Malaysian police said Tuesday, 12th January, they have identified their first suspect in attacks on some 10 churches and Christian buildings amid a dispute over the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims.

     Deputy Inspector-General Ismail Omar told reporters in the capital Kuala Lumpur that police received information "from a photograph", without providing details, citing the ongoing investigation.

     Anti-Christian violence began last Friday, 8th January, after a court ruled that Catholic newspaper The Herald could use the word Allah, in reference to God, in its Malay-language editions.

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  | more... |

 

5th January, 2010

TAJIKSTAN CHURCHES FACE CLOSURES AND AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Devoted Christians in several areas of Tajikistan faced uncertainty over the future of their churches after the former Soviet republic introduced a new religion law that the United States has criticised as highly restrictive.

     The Religion Law, which came into forces on New Year's Day, empowers the government to impose stricter control of religious groups in the former Soviet republic that tolerates only the state-approved version of Islam.

     Under the legislation groups that choose not to register with authorities or fail to gain re-registration will become illegal. All Christian and other “religious organisations” need to provide the national government with written confirmation of their existence from their local administration.

     A report from BosNewsLife.com...  | more... |

 

9th December, 2009

AUDIO BIBLES SOWING GOD'S WORD IN ETHIOPIA

Faith Comes By Hearing Audio Bible ministry has a goal of implementing two million Bible listening groups, and recording the New Testament in 2,000 languages by 2016.

     This international Audio Bible ministry is teaming up with like-minded organisations to reach and disciple the world’s poor and illiterate people with the Word of God.

     According to a news release from Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH),among the Bench people in southwest Ethiopia, there are more than 580 groups regularly gathering for a time of Bible listening and discussion. Local leaders say God’s Word has been a transforming factor: bringing understanding, instruction and hope.

     JEREMY REYNALDS reports for Assist News Service...  | more... |

 

30th November, 2009

UK'S BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY SEES 82,000 PEOPLE RETURN

Church of England churches welcomed back 53,000 people on Back to Church Sunday 2009, a 71 per cent increase on 2008, as part of a growing initiative that saw more than 80,000 people come back to church across the UK on one Sunday in September.

    Statistical returns from participating churches suggest that an average of 19 people returned to each church after receiving a personal invitation.

    They were greeted with an especially welcoming Sunday service on the day, fuelled by resources such as red 'welcome' T-shirts and subsidised 'party packs' of fairly-traded catering products, produced in partnership with Traidcraft.

     PETER WOODING reports for Assist News Service...  | more... |

 

18th November, 2009

IRISH PRIEST WHO WAS KIDNAPPED IN THE PHILIPPINES WANTS TO STAY

A 79-year old Irish priest, who was released unharmed one month after being kidnapped in the Philippines by a militant Islamic group, says he wants to continue serving as a missionary.

     The Rev Michael Sinnott, a Roman Catholic priest, was abducted outside his home in Pagadian on 11th October and was freed on 11th November by a group called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

     "In the immediate future I hope to stay on here in the Philippines, to go back to do my work. I don’t know what the superiors are going to say about that, but that is my own wish," he told the Irish national broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, on 12th November.

     RAY McMENAMIN reports for ENI...  | more... |

 

9th November, 2009

COLOMBIANS WIN RIGHT TO OBJECT TO MILITARY SERVICE ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS

Christians are celebrating after the Colombian Supreme Court ruled its citizens can opt out of obligatory military religious service because of religious, moral or philosophical objections.

     Prior to the decision, which was handed down on 16th October, only young men studying to be Catholic priests were guaranteed the right to conscientious exemption.

     The Colombian Mennonite Church - which maintains a pacifist tradition - is among religious and human rights groups which have been advocating for the right to be guaranteed by the courts.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  | more... |

 

31st October, 2009

FAITH LEADERS CONDEMN FORCED LABOUR AND TRAFFICKING

Representatives of international and faith-based relief organizations are emphasising that widespread public awareness is necessary in order to tackle the problems of forced labour and human trafficking.

The comments came from those attending the Council of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

     ‘Upholding Human Dignity: Confronting Human Trafficking,’ has been the theme of the October meeting of the LWF governing body, attended by around 165 participants at Chavannes-de-Bogis near Geneva, Switzerland.

     Roger Plant, head of the Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour at the International Labour Organization (ILO), called for concrete legislative measures and stricter enforcement of the existing laws of individual countries.

     A report from Ekklesia...  | more... |

 

25th October, 2009

RUSSIAN MINISTRIES LAUNCHES AMBITIOUS 'PROJECT HOPE' CHRISTMAS APPEAL

Russian Ministries is appealing for Western Christians to help provide a message of hope to needy children across Russia this Christmas from war-ravaged South Ossetia to the remote far north to the crowded streets of Moscow.

     The charity’s senior vice-president Sergey Rakhuba launched this year’s Project Hope appeal by setting an ambitious target: “Last year we distributed 30,000 gift-filled boxes, which include children’s Bibles. This year we’re planning to deliver 50,000 that we can make available together with the evangelical churches to at risk children throughout Russia."

     PETER WOODING reports...  | more... |

 

16th October, 2009

GLOBAL CHURCHES LEADER TO VISIT COMMUNIST-RULED NORTH KOREA

The head of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, is to lead a delegation to North Korea, in the latest of several recent visits from Christian groups to the communist-ruled state.

     "We will be meeting with the churches, government officials and learning about the life and witness of churches in North Korea," said Mathews George Chunakara, director of the WCC Public Witness programme, in a 15th October statement announcing the visit.

     The WCC said Kobia, a Kenyan Methodist who steps down at the end of 2009 as general secretary of the world's biggest church grouping, would preach at the Bong Soo Church in Pyongyang.

     STEPHEN BROWN reports...  | more... |

 

RAPED WOMEN IN BOSNIA CONTINUE TO BE DENIED JUSTICE, SAYS AMNESTY REPORT

Fourteen years after the end of a war in which thousands of women were raped, Amnesty International has called on the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina to provide victims with access to justice and reparations.

     In a report launched in Sarajevo late last month, the organisation says the human rights of survivors have been violated by authorities who have failed to comprehensively investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence.

    In a statement, Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International's Europe programme director, says that thousands of women were raped during the 1992-1995 war, “often with extreme brutality”.

     DAVID ADAMS reports...  | more... |

 

21st September, 2009

GERMAN BISHOP URGES NORTH KOREANS TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MAN

Germany's senior Protestant bishop has urged Christians in officially atheist North Korea to obey God "rather than man".

      Bishop Wolfgang Huber, the council chairperson of Germany's Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), spoke during a service in the Bongsun Church in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, according to a statement made available to Ecumenical News International on 15th September.

      Without alluding to Kim Jong-il, who in 1997 succeeded his father as leader of North Korea, Huber quoted from the Bible's book of Acts of the Apostles (5: 29), when he said, "We ought to obey God rather than man."

      ANLI SERFONTEIN reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

9th September, 2009

ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP URGES MADAGASCAN LEADERS TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST

Anglican Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean Province, who is based in Mauritius, is calling on political leaders in Madagascar to set aside their political agendas, and put people first.

     "I know it is difficult because of the delicate situation, but as a church we are calling on the leaders to see it at the level of God," Archbishop Ernest told Ecumenical News International in Nairobi on 2nd September after a meeting with regional Anglican leaders.

     The world's fourth largest island, in the Indian Ocean, is trapped in a political standoff between Andre Rajoelina, the former mayor of Antananarivo, the capital city, and ousted President Marc Ravalomanana, the senior lay leader of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM).

     FREDRICK NZWILI reports...  | more... |

 

3rd September, 2009

POLAND OBSERVES 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF WORLD WAR II

European and American leaders gathered to observe the 70th anniversary of the German military invasion of Poland, which is generally regarded as the start of World War II. Tuesday's ceremonies came amid controversy between Poland and Russia over the war, in which some 50 million people died.

     At a somber ceremony Polish leaders met at dawn on Gdansk's Westerplatte peninsula, where 70 years ago German forces began to attack Poland.

     An honorary guard looked on as officials placed wreaths at the foot of the monument to the defenders of Westerplatte at 4:45am local time, the exact time that the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began shelling this tiny Polish military outpost.

     STEFAN J. BOS reports...  | more... |

 

25th August, 2009

ANGOLAN WOMEN STILL FACE WAR - BY OTHER MEANS

The armed conflict in Angola ended seven years ago, but the consequences of four decades of war are felt still today. And women seem to be bearing most of the brunt.

     "We do not have an open conflict right now", says Josefina Sandemba, a pastor from the Evangelical Congregational Church in Angola (IECA) who was briefing a Living Letters team visiting the country on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in late July, "but guns keep taking their toll within communities still today".

     JUAN MICHEL reports...  | more... |

 

14th August, 2009

RUSSIAN AND GEORGIAN PATRIARCHS PLEA FOR PEACE ON WAR ANNIVERSARY

Orthodox church leaders from Russia and Georgia called for peace while their political counterparts lobbed charges of aggression in marking the one year anniversary of the South Ossetia war.

     The Russian and Georgian patriarchs also commemorated the victims of the short, brutal war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

     Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church stressed the common spiritual heritage of the warring sides, continuing the line taken last year by Ilia and the late Patriarch Aleksei II of the Russian Orthodox Church, who had sought reconciliation as the conflict raged.

     SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY reports...  | more... |

 

11th August, 2009

NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS FEAR CRACKDOWN AMID DEADLY CLASHES

Christian leaders in northern Nigeria fear a fresh crackdown on evangelical activities after local authorities announced plans to control “religious preachers” as Islamic violence left at least a dozen Christians dead and destroyed some 20 churches.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which represents churches, criticised governors of 19 northern states for setting up a committee to regulate the activities of “religious preachers” in the mainly-Muslim region, saying it could lead to more tensions and bloodshed.

     "This forum has resolved to constitute a preaching board that will screen and approve competent Muslim and Christian clergy for evangelical activities," Niger state leader Babanginda Aliyu explained after a governors' meeting in the northern city of Kaduna last week.

     A report from BosNewsLife...  | more... |

 

31st July, 2009

HYMNS BECOME LATEST REVOLT TRIGGER IN FIJI

Charles Wesley, the great Methodist hymn writer, may have penned his famous words "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer praise" almost 270 years ago, but it seems just singing these words today in strife-torn Fiji could destabilise a whole government.

     The military government of interim prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has agitated the normally harmonious voice of Fijian Methodists by attempting to stop the church's conference from taking place in late August.

     KIM CAIN reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

23rd July, 2009

DESPITE URUGUAY'S PEACEFUL IMAGE, CHURCHES STRIVE TO OVERCOME VIOLENCE

Dispelling the myth of "a little peaceful country", an international ecumenical Living Letters team visited Uruguay and discovered how violence manifests itself at the levels of family life, the state and youth, and how the churches in this South American country seek to overcome it.

     "Some of the members of the Living Letters team had the idyllic vision that they had brought with them changed when they met the actual situation here," said Pastor Oscar Bolioli, President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Uruguay, who hosted the visit.

     RICARDO VERASTEGUI and JUAN MICHEL report for...  | more... |

 

18th July, 2009

FALL OF IRON CURTAIN MEANS CHURCHES NEED 'ONE VOICE' IN NEW EUROPE

Germany's senior Protestant leader has praised the role European churches played in the 1989 political changes that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall but says they need to find new ways of making their voice heard in today's Europe.
     "We can now together declare our faith and carry out our task of reconciliation, and testify to the peace of Christ that is given to us," said Bishop Wolfgang Huber, who heads the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). He was speaking on 17th July to the once-every-six-years assembly of the Conference of European Churches taking place in Lyon, France.

     STEPHEN BROWN reports...  | more... |

 

10th July, 2009

KENYAN PROTESTANTS URGE INVESTIGATION INTO POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE

Protestant churches in Kenya have dispatched one of their leaders to the International Criminal Court at The Hague to deliver a one-million signature petition urging investigations of post-election violence.

     "I will execute the instructions given to me as soon as possible," said the Rev Peter Karanja, the general secretary of National Council of Churches of Kenya, on 2nd July in Limuru, near Nairobi, while receiving 500 000 of the signatures.

     FREDRICK NZWILL reports for Ecumenical News International...  | more... |

 

1st July, 2009

WORLD MEETING PLEDGES URGENT SOCIAL SUPPORT FOR HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS

The European Union and dozens of countries have pledged to speed up social support for Holocaust survivors and the search for art and other items that were stolen during World War II by the Nazis.

     At a meeting in Prague, they agreed to establish a special European institute to deal with these issues and education. As the number of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust rapidly declines, there is a sense of urgency among delegates that the world must provide them with adequate social assistance and compensation for stolen goods.

     The five-day meeting - attended by Holocaust survivors, members of Jewish organisations and delegates from nearly 50 nations - was a follow-up to a conference more than a decade ago in Washington that led to agreements on recovering art looted by the Nazis.

     STEFAN J. BOS reports...  | more... |

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