Out of fear of losing their lives or religion, a tiny group of Christians who still remain in the northern Syrian city of Rakka have agreed to pay off Islamists with a "Tribute Tax" so they won't be killed.
Earlier this year, Rakka's Christian leaders and representatives from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an Islamist branch of Al-Qaeda, signed a dhimma or protection agreement, under which members of the church must now pay for their own physical protection, reported Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.
Under the dhimma, wealthy Christians must pay the ISIS $500 twice a year per person or four gold dinars. Middle class and poor Christians will pay half and a quarter of the fine respectively, "on condition they do not conceal their true financial situation." more >>
Between 250,000 to 400,000 Orthodox Jews held a mass protest in Jerusalem on Sunday against a controversial bill aiming to end the community's military exemptions, meaning Jewish men and women would be called up for military service when they turn 18.
Reuters reported on Sunday that that "ultra-Orthodox" Jewish leaders called on men, women and children to attend the mass protests against the bill, which is expected to pass in the coming weeks and end the exemptions which have traditionally been held since the country's foundation.
Many of those attending the protest apparently issued a plea to God to stop the bill from becoming law, reports said, with Haredim arguing that the study of Jewish holy scriptures is essential to their way of life, and military service would get in the way of that tradition. more >>
A powerful Syrian jihadist group with links to al-Qaeda has forced Christian leaders in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa to sign a contract of submission and enter into the medieval Islamic term as "dhimmis" in exchange for their protection.
The jihadist group—Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which is mostly composed of foreign terrorists—is widely considered to be the most radical group fighting in the Syrian Civil War.
According to the document, which was posted on a Twitter account of a member of the ISIL, Christians in Raqqa were given the choices to convert to Islam, remain Christian, but submit to Islam, or face death. more >>
Israeli and American archaeologists have found what appear to be silver hoop earrings discovered from a biblical-era site in northern Israel and believed to have been used for trade before the invention of coins.
The earrings were found along with silver ingots in a jug in the ancient city of Abel Beth Maacah in Israel. Archaeologists date the jewelry as being 3,200 years old, before the invention of the minted coin. The silver earrings were wrapped tightly in dense plant fibers and placed in the jug, which was not hidden but rather found leaning against a wall, north to a massive structure that may have been a tower in the city that lies near Lebanon's border.
"We found it in a small jug leaning against a wall, apparently on a dirt floor," head researchers Robert Mullins, Nava Panitz-Cohen and Ruhama Bonfil told LiveScience via email. "It didn't seem to have been deliberately hidden in a niche or any other hidey-hole." more >>
The Syrian government is blaming the United States for creating a "negative climate" around the major U.N. peace talks in Geneva that ended in failure last week, as fighting in the war-torn country continues with no end in sight.
Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said that the American government tried to "create a very negative climate for dialogue in Geneva," The Associated Press reported on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has repeatedly insisted that the only way forward for the Middle Eastern country is if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad steps down, something which the leader has not given any indication that he is considering. Instead, the nearly three-year-old war between Assad's forces and rebel factions seeking to remove him from power continues. more >>
A group of Korean Christians are planning to build a "peace center" for a Christian community in Pakistan that was hit by a terrorist attack last year.
Last month, a delegation of Korean church leaders visited the Anglican Diocese of Peshawar at the request of Bishop Humphrey Peters. During the visitation, the delegation, which included Dr. Myoung Hyuk Kim, chairman of the Korean Evangelical Fellowship, and the Rev. Dong-Hwi Lee, senior pastor of the Tin Church, announced plans for a peace center.