Christians and religious minorities face a "unique" form of religious freedom restrictions in Saudi Arabia, a persecution watchdog group says, noting that not a single church is allowed to exist in the country.
"Not a single church or other non-Muslim house of worship exists in the country," says Bandar al-Aiban, the director of the Saudi National Human Rights commission. Churches are not allowed to exist "because the entire country is a 'sacred mosque' for Islam's holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina."
International Christian Concern has highlighted the extent of the restrictions in Saudi Arabia, which is officially an Islamic state, and the consequences they have on the millions of Christians, who are mostly foreign workers, living there. more >>
Activists comprising the small Christian minority in Sudan say they are now afraid to pray after a Christian mother in the county was recently sentenced to death for her faith.
One Christian activist who chose to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal said in a recent interview that he and others are afraid for their lives following the recent death sentence delivered to Meriam Ibrahim, who has been accused of apostasy and adultery for her Christian faith.
"The church is now contaminated with terror. You don't feel safe in prayer," the activist told CNN in a recent interview. The media outlet also reports that since Ibrahim's sentencing in May, the country's few Christian churches have become progressively emptier as Christians hide their faith, afraid of a similar fate to Ibrahim's. more >>
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who is running largely unopposed, is expected to be re-elected as president after voting began this week. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called the elections a "farce."
CNN reported on Tuesday that the outcome of the elections is not in doubt, and Assad is expected to continue his Syrian regime. Assad first came to power 14 years ago.
The other candidates for the presidency, businessman and former government minister Hassan al-Nouri, and Maher Hajjar, a lawmaker, are largely unknown and not expected to mount a serious challenge. more >>
Israel's Education Ministry announced on Sunday that for the first time ever evolution will be taught in the middle school core curriculum, which up until now offered only the biblical account of the origins of humanity. Ultra-orthodox groups have responded with mixed feelings on the matter, however, with some calling it a "mistake."
"Until now, there has been no discussion on the topic and students were not taught that the multitude of species is the result of processes of development among plants and animals," Professional Committee Chairwoman Professor Nava Ben-Zvi told Israel Hayom.
"The entire evolutionary perspective had not been written down [for them], as with the topics of ecology and the behavior of animals. It is important to explain how so many species came to be." more >>
Pope Francis slipped a Spanish version of the Lord's Prayer into Jerusalem's Western Wall during his visit to the Holy Land this week, according to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which published the note.
During his visit to Jerusalem this past Monday, journalists photographed Francis saying a quick prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City before slipping a note in between the stones of the wall, as is common tradition. After Francis departed from the Holy Land on Monday, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation published the contents of his note, handwritten on official papal letterhead and signed by the simple name "Francis."
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen. Franciscus," the letter read, translated from its original writing in Spanish. more >>
A recently released infographic from The Huffington Post underscores how deadly the plight of Christians in the Middle East has become in the last decade.
The populations of Iraq, Egypt, and Syria — arguably the Middle East's three most volatile countries in the 21st century — suggest that their turmoil has had especially devastating effects on the Christian population. Syria, for instance, boasted a population of one million Christians in 2010. Today, only 550,000 remain - a drop of nearly 50 percent.
Prior to the U.S. 2013 invasion of Iraq, the country was home to 1.5 million Christians. Today, only about 500,000 remain, just a third of the previous Christian population. more >>