(Photo: AP/Gurinder Osan)
While presidential elections and wars have dominated international headlines, other world news affecting Christians have often gone unnoticed or with minimal coverage.
The Christian Post has selected some of the top international news in 2008 that Christians should be aware of. Stories are listed in no particular order or rank.
Hindu fundamentalists have gone on an anti-Christian rampage in India following the murder of one of its leaders, which they blame Christians for. Since the swami’s death in mid-August, at least 100 Christians have been killed, thousands of Christian buildings have been destroyed, and more than 50,000 Christians have been displaced from their homes due to the violence. State and national governments have largely stood by and watched the atrocities rather than try to intervene to stop the attacks.
Now more than five months after the violence against Christians began, the attacks continue to rage on with no sign of ceasing. The anti-Christian violence is said to be the worst sectarian conflict in India’s history since its independence in 1947.
Within two weeks in October, more than 15,000 Iraqi Christians, or 2,500 families, fled the northern town of Mosul after at least 13 Christians were killed in the span of four weeks, including three men who were murdered within 24 hours.
Mosul is home to the second-largest Christian community in Iraq, after Baghdad. Many Christians from Baghdad and Basra had moved to the north for safety from religious persecution.
Since the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq war, the Christian population in Iraq has plummeted from 1.4 million to less than half a million. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Christians make up nearly half of those fleeing Iraq even though they make up only about three percent of the country’s population.
Several Christian groups organized different activities to respond to a historic, first-of-its-kind letter sent by a diverse body of Muslim leaders last year that called for cooperation between Muslims and Christians.
Yale University hosted an interfaith conference in July, which was attended by Prince Ghazi bin Muhummad of Jordan among other high profile figures. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Vatican also each hosted an interfaith meeting with Muslim leaders in response to the letter.
The World Evangelical Alliance, a body representing 420 million evangelicals, held its first general assembly in seven years this fall. The conference, in which the attendance body was truly representative of the global church in its diversity, resulted in structural changes and guidelines on how to deal with current challenges facing the Church, including Muslim-Christian relations and engagement in the public square.
After the Assembly, WEA leaders committed themselves to fight against HIV/AIDS, poverty, and environmental degradation. They also discussed the role the evangelical body should have in promoting religious liberty and peace in the world.
As the Olympic host, China was vulnerable to the scrutiny of its record on human rights and religious freedom this year. Among the hot button issues in the months leading up to the Games was Tibet, which has long sought to be an independent country. Pro-Tibet freedom protesters greeted the Olympic torch as it made its way around the world.
Religious freedom, especially regarding Chinese house churches, was another heated topic before and during the Olympics. President Bush, before flying to China to attend the Games as well as in front of a government-sanctioned church in Beijing, declared to the Chinese government that religious freedom is a basic human right.