The plight of U.S.-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini was highlighted by Secretary of State John Kerry during his remarks for the State Department's 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom, with Kerry promising to continue to work for the pastor's release.
"In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs. We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it," Kerry stated.
"And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah's Witnesses to Baha'is to Ahmadi Muslims." more >>
The end of Christianity in Iraq could be "very near" according to Canon Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, as Islamic militants continue their attacks of Christians and the central government.
"Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing," White said in an interview with BBC Radio 4 over the weekend. "We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.
"Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near." more >>
The U.N. Security Council has demanded an "immediate and unconditional" cease-fire in Gaza on Monday morning after the Israel-Hamas conflict topped 1,000 deaths. U.S. President Barack Obama has meanwhile backed Israel's right to defend itself with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but expressed concern with the mounting civilian deaths.
The U.N. statement called for both Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond," Fox News reported, explaining that this will allow for the delivery of much needed assistance.
Israel and Hamas had reached a 12-hour humanitarian truce on Saturday that was extended to another 24 hours, following pressure from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other foreign ministers. Hamas has reportedly continued to fire rockets during that time, however, and Israel has said that it will continue to neutralize terrorist threats. more >>
Israel decided late Saturday to extend a 12-hour humanitarian truce for another 24 hours in the Gaza Strip under pressure from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from other nations. But Hamas militants said they will accept the truce only if Israeli troops leave the territory, and fired a barrage of rockets at Israel.
During the period of the 24-hour truce, which goes on through Sunday midnight, the Israeli army would continue to neutralize Gaza tunnels as well as respond to attacks by Palestinian militants, according to Israeli news website Haaretz.com. Israel says the tunnels reach into its territory and could be used to attack its citizens.
Ezzedine al-Qassam, the armed wing of Hamas, acknowledged that it fired two rockets at Tel Aviv in central Israel, and five at Nachal Oz in the south, according to France 24. However, there were no reports of casualties. more >>
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was holding talks with diplomats from various countries in France Saturday for a comprehensive truce deal between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza Strip even as both sides agreed for a 12-hour ceasefire.
Several foreign ministers were in Paris Saturday – the day a 12-hour humanitarian truce went into effect in Gaza Strip on a U.N. request – to help forge an agreement between Israel and Palestinian militants to end the fighting that has been going on for 19 days, according to Reuters.
"In support of initiatives currently under way, most notably Egypt's initiative, our objective is to converge all international efforts so that the conditions of a ceasefire can emerge as quickly as possible," a French diplomatic source told Reuters. more >>
A revered Muslim shrine in Mosul, Iraq, said to be the burial place of the biblical prophet Jonah known as Yunus in the Koran, was reportedly blown "to dust" by members of the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Thursday.
"Islamic State completely destroyed the shrine of Nabi Yunus after telling local families to stay away and closing the roads to a distance of 500 meters from the shrine," an official at the Sunni endowment, which manages Sunni religious affairs in Iraq told AFP.
The official who asked not to be identified said the militants took an hour to rig the shrine before levelling it to the ground. He explained that other notable shrines had also been destroyed by ISIS: "But the worst destruction was of Nabi Yunus, which has been turned to dust." more >>