Four Iranian Christians are set to receive 80 lashes each as punishment for drinking communion wine at a house church, while Iran faced further criticism in a U.N. report on its human rights record.
"The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalise the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord's Supper and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably," said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), who reported the news earlier this week.
"We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the nation's legal practices and procedures do not contradict its international obligation under the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities." more >>
Three Republican Senators have urged Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the U.S. State Department to help "stop sectarian violence and end the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt."
Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) argued that the "deteriorating situation of Egypt's Christian minority is a matter of great concern" and that the recent wave of violence directed at Coptic Christians "warrants a clear U.S. response."
A U.S. pastor from California who was arrested earlier this week while protesting in front of Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, where Pastor Saeed Abedini is set to return home on Wednesday, described the experience as an "honor."
Eddie Romero of Exodus8one, a faith group with a mission to "engage belligerent governments/societies (with respect to faith) directly in order to address the injustice towards Christians and other religious minorities," was arrested on Monday in Tehran in front of the prison. He had been shouting "let my people go" in the Farsi language, and demanded the freedom of four Christian converts and a human rights advocate being kept there, including Pastor Saeed Abedini.
Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor sentenced to eight years in prison, passed the 1-year mark of his imprisonment last month. His story has attracted major international attention, with President Barack Obama and hundreds of thousands of people around the world petitioning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for his release. more >>
Israeli Arab politician, Haneen Zoabi, lost her bid to become Nazareth's first new mayor in 20 years. Zoabi, who ran against incumbent, Ramiz Jaraisi, who has been the city's mayor for almost two decades, only won 3,812 votes. Jararisi, a Christian, received 43.37 percent of the total.
Nazareth, a popular destination for Christian tourists hoping to step foot where Jesus was raised, is made up of about 70 percent Muslims and 30 percent Christians. It has a population of about 80,000 people. Outside of Nazareth, 20 percent of Israel's population is made up of Arabs.
Zoabi is one of 12 Israeli Arabs who currently holds a seat on Israel's parliament, or Knesset, where she has shown to be an outspoken critic of her country and encouraged her fellow Israeli Arabs to not allow themselves to be complacent bystanders who "thank Israel every day for not expelling them in 1948, who think they are not equal to Jewish citizens." more >>
An increase in violent activity, including bombings in Northern Iraq, is forcing Christians to flee the region in panic, even though the area is considered one of the safest in the country until recent developments.
The growing number of attacks in the region include a Sept. 22 suicide bomb that went off at the home of Christian politician Emad Youhanna in Rafigayn, which injured 19 people including three of Youhanna's children, World Watch Monitor reported. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a number of other recent attacks, while Christians in surrounding villages have complained about harassment from police.
"It remains urgent to pray for the future of Christianity in this country," watchdog group Open Doors USA said. "If the present trend continues, there might be no Christian left in the whole of Iraq by 2020." The group added that although a number of Christians are still choosing to stay, their concern over safety is growing, and they may be left with little choice but to leave. more >>
Officials at Syria's oldest known church confirmed that bombs were found in the church's confessional box earlier this month.
Patriarch Gregory III Laham, a prominent Syrian Christian leader, confirmed that the bombs were found in a church in Yabroud, while he was out of the country in Britain earlier this month.
Yabroud was one of the earliest towns to join protests against President Bashir Al-Assad, and is now totally controlled by rebels, who have constructed walls and fences around the town, spraying them with three stars graffiti - symbolizing that the city is under the control of the Free Syrian Army. more >>