WASHINGTON — Speaking on a Thursday panel discussion on international religious freedoms at Georgetown University, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., asserted that although he thinks religion is not "inherently a good thing," the U.S. should do more to influence foreign governments into protecting the religious liberties of their citizens.
Ellison, who grew up in a Catholic household in Detroit and became a Muslim at the age of 19, was asked by Baylor University Chancellor and former U.S. Solicitor General Ken Starr to provide his definition of freedom of religion, and explain what the U.S.'s role is in promoting the freedom of religion abroad.
Ellison began by explaining that freedom of religion is the right of individuals to practice their religion, no matter how unorthodox their personal religious views might be. more >>
In what is being described as one of ISIS' most brutal videos, hundreds of young Iraqi military cadets in Tikrit were machine gunned to death while lying face-down in mass graves.
The recently released 22-minute footage from June 2014 shows hundreds of executions in the Iraqi city north of Baghdad. Sunday, The Daily Mail published photos and a portion of the video online. Many of the victims in the full video can be shown pleading for their lives before being executed. Some experts estimate the death toll to be as high as 1,700.
Further details of the massacre were reported by The Christian Poston Sunday. The mass graves of around 1,700 soldiers were uncovered by forensic teams in Tikrit, Iraq, back in April after the city was liberated from ISIS. A government spokesman said that the soldiers were killed sometime in 2014. more >>
While the recent nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers has stoked debate in the U.S. over the Obama administration's negotiating tactics, Iranian Christians are reportedly "thanking Christ" and view the agreement as an "answer to prayers," one Iranian priest has said.
"I can certainly say that all Christians, along with all the Iranian people are rejoicing because their prayers were answered," Chaldean Iranian priest Hormoz Aslani Babroudi, national director of the Pontifical Missionary Society of Iran, told Fides News Agency.
"From now on it will be easier for the world to have a positive outlook toward Iran, the desire for harmony will prevail and it will be easier to show everyone that Iran is not what some media networks report. We can work and use science for the good of the country, we can develop technologies to live better." more >>
A prominent mosque in Sacramento has honored an Evangelical Christian congregation for the first time with its annual award for outstanding acts of interfaith service. The accolade recognizes the church's efforts to help Middle Eastern refugees settle into their new lives in California.
During its fourth annual interfaith Iftar [an evening meal for Muslims to end their daily fast during the month of Ramadan] last Wednesday, the SALAM Islamic Center honored the First Covenant Church of Sacramento with its "Distinguished Award for Exceptional Interfaith and Community Service."
The Sacramento Bee reports that the banquet was attended by 200 community members including local, state and federal officials. SALAM Executive Director Metwalli Amer told the audience that First Covenant has taken outstanding measures to bridge the societal gap for Muslim newcomers to the community who are seeking safety from their conflict-ridden homelands in the Middle East. more >>
The American Center for Law and Justice and Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini, have urged Congress to reject Tuesday's nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, which lifts economic sanctions from the Islamic Republic. The ACLJ noted that Obama had promised the Abedini family face-to-face that he would not forget the pastor and will bring him home.
"It is unconscionable that the Obama administration would sign a deal with Iran without securing the freedom of pastor Saeed who has been imprisoned for nearly three years simply because of his Christian faith," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, said in a statement when asked to comment on the deal by The Christian Post.
"President Obama told the Abedini family face-to-face that he considered the release of pastor Saeed a 'top priority.' How could that be a 'top priority' when a deal is reached and pastor Saeed is left behind? What happened today makes a bad deal even worse. We will now focus our attention on convincing Congress to reject this deal." more >>
Pastor Behnam Irani, who's been held in an Iranian prison since 2011 because of his Christian ministry work, has received a temporary release and is now visiting with his wife and children at home for the first time in more than four years.
Irani, a 43-year-old former Muslim who is now an evangelical Christian leader in the Islamic Republic, was originally sentenced to serve six years in prison for reportedly forming an evangelical congregation in the city of Karaj.
But in September of last year, Irani was accused of 18 new charges, including "spreading corruption on Earth," which is punishable by execution. more >>