Pope Francis prayed for an end to Christian persecution in the Middle East on Sunday, one day after Christians were forced to flee the village of Mosul in Iraq following threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a jihadist militant group.
While leading a moment of silence in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday, Francis said that Christians suffering persecution in the Middle East will be the subject of his "constant prayers."
"Violence isn't overcome with violence. Violence is conquered with peace," the pope told the crowd gathered at St. Peter's Square. "Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are chased away." more >>
Iraq could break apart into three separate states in response to the extremist Islamic group ISIS, which declared an "Islamic state" in Iraq and Syria, a Kurdish government official predicts.
"Baghdad seems to be pushing us into that direction, and we're closer than ever," said Karim Sanjari, minister of Interior for the Kurdish region, according to Christian relief group World Compassion Terry Law Ministries.
Jason Law, vice president of Operations for World Compassion, told The Christian Post in a phone interview on Thursday that Iraq splitting up into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish states is very much a real possibility. more >>
Islamist militant group Boko Haram has killed at least 2,053 civilians in over 95 attacks during the first half of 2014, an analysis by Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday. The militants, who also kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls in April, have waged a war on the Nigerian government and the country's Christians for close to five years.
"Boko Haram is effectively waging war on the people of northeastern Nigeria at a staggering human cost," said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Atrocities committed as part of a widespread attack on civilians are crimes against humanity, for which those responsible need to be held to account."
The watchdog group detailed a number of the attacks that have occurred in Nigeria since January, and noted that its figures are based on analysis of media reports as well as field investigations. Many of the most deadly attacks took place in Borno State, the birthplace of Boko Haram, where 1,446 people were killed. more >>
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai has vowed to continue fighting for the safe release of the 219 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April.
While visiting Nigeria this past Saturday on her 17th birthday, Yousafzai told parents of the kidnapped schoolgirls that her one birthday wish for this year is to see the kidnapped girls freed and reunited with their parents.
"I can see those girls as my sisters … and I'm going to speak up for them until they are released," the education activist said while speaking to parents of the girls on Saturday. "I can feel … the circumstances under which you are suffering. It's quite difficult for a parent to know that their daughter is in great danger." more >>
The Chinese, Russian and Tajikistan governments bore responsibility for the destruction of over 100 houses of worship in their respective countries in 2012.
Pew Research Center has found that the three countries, whose populations are 1.4 billion, 146 million, and 8 million, respectively, were among the leaders in terms of the number of incidents of religious property damage. Pew collected data on the "demolition of houses of worship, and the seizure of religious groups' property and government raids of houses of worship that result in property damage."
China, which has no state religion, currently has a minority Christian population. According to the CIA World Factbook, 52.2 percent of the population is religiously unaffiliated, 18.2 percent is Buddhist, and only 5.1 percent are Christians. more >>
The Assembly of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Colombia has decried the human rights abuses continuing to take place in the country, where Christians are sometimes killed for offering a different way of life than joining drug trafficking groups.
"The situation is very delicate, and we as Bishops are the voice of those who have no voice, so we need to highlight that we are not living in human conditions in this area. We are forgotten by all, we have no protection, people live in anguish and without hope," said His Exc. Mgr. Julio Hernando García Peláez, Bishop of Istmina-Tado, according to Fides News Agency.
The region of Chocò was highlighted as a particular concern, where drug traffickers often prevent the presence of the services of the state. Mgr. Garcia added that security forces in the area also bare a good deal of responsibility for the violence, and claimed that some security members use civilians "to protect themselves from the fire of illegal armed groups, and innocent people die in these deadly clashes." more >>