Islamic members of Egypt's constitution panel rushed to approve a draft constitution Friday morning without the presence of liberal and Christian members, two days before a court ruling that could possibly dissolve the panel.
"Rushing through a draft while serious concerns about key rights protections remain unaddressed will create huge problems down the road that won't be easy to fix," Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch told NBC News.
Only the Islamic majority members of the 100-person panel were present Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 to speedily approve a draft constitution, as the panel's minority Christian, secular, and liberal members have been protesting the Islamic domination of the constitution creation process for weeks. more >>
Cairo officials ruled Wednesday that seven Egyptian Christians in the U.S. and Canada be sentenced, in absentia, to death for their participation in the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" film, which was published to YouTube in September and resulted in riots and protests among Muslims in the Middle East.
"The seven accused persons were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in producing and offering a movie that insults Islam and its prophet," Egyptian Judge Saif al-Nasr Soliman said Wednesday, according to Reuters.
The court charged the seven Coptic Christians, which include the film's director and producer Mark Basseley Youssef, with "intentionally committing acts to harm the unity of the country and peace of its land, calling to divide the country into small states on a sectarian basis and harming national unity, and using religion to promote extremist ideas resulting in religious division and disrespect [of] heavenly religion," according to NBC News. more >>
The 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl who was charged with committing blasphemy against Islam has been acquitted, after an Islamabad court found evidence that a Muslim cleric who accused her of tearing up pages from the Quran may have been the one to plant the evidence.
The girl, known as Rimsha Masih and said to have mental difficulties, was arrested in August after she was accused of burning pages from the Quran, the Muslim holy book. Such an offense is recognized as blasphemy in Pakistan, which has a 97 percent Islamic population. Blasphemy is punishable by imprisonment and in some cases even death.
Rimsha was released on bail in September, but only now where the charges against her dropped, with the court saying that the accusations were "based on heresy and incriminated material that was planted in the girl's possession," according to defense lawyer Abdul Hameed. more >>
An interfaith group that brings Christians and Jews together for common goals, including the support of Israel, announced on Friday that it will increase its funding of emergency aid for families in southern Israel. Rocket attacks on cities in southern Israel occurred this week and are said to be continuing as the IDF launches a wide assault on what it describes as "terror activity sites" and military infrastructure in Gaza Strip.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) said that $2.7 million in funds will go to an emergency and security aid package that includes supplies for the people in communities under fire, including Netivot, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat, Sdot Negev, and Eshkol.
"With 20 percent of the nation's people in bomb shelters today, improving the security of the residents of the south is a vital priority for The Fellowship," said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and CEO of The Fellowship. "The untenable situation of more than 1 million residents living under constant threat of rocket fire must top the list of concerns of every friend of Israel. We are working hand-in-hand with the Israel Ministry for Home Front Defense and the IDF, and we will continue to cooperate to ensure the security of Israel's people." more >>
Despite fears by Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church that the country's Muslim Brotherhood majority government will draft a constitution mirroring Islamic Sharia law, the denomination's new pope is encouraging politicians to not ignore Christians.
"The beauty of Egyptian society is the presence of Muslims beside Christians. Diversity is strong and beautiful," said Pope Tawadros II during an interview with Reuters news service earlier this week. Tawadros was appointed last Sunday to replace Pope Shenouda III, who died in March after leading Egypt's Orthodox Christians for four decades.
"If a good constitution is presented in which every person finds himself [represented], there is no doubt Egypt will develop," the pope said. "But if the constitution addresses one part of the community and ignores another it will take society backwards." more >>
A pastor in Pakistan has been denied bail after he was accused of blasphemy and arrested by police, who protected him from a mob of angry Muslims.
Karma Patras was originally arrested on Oct. 13, after he held a prayer meeting at a Christian family's house in Sanghla Hill in central Punjab province, where he was asked about the meaning and relevance of the Muslim feast of sacrifice, Eid-al-Adha. The festival, celebrated by Muslims throughout the world, honors the sacrifice to God Abraham was willing to make by offering his first-born son Ishmael, as found in the Book of Genesis.
As reported by persecution watchdog International Christian Voice, Pastor Patras said that the feast was strictly a Muslim one and was forbidden for Christians. Patras quoted Corinthians 10:28-29, which says: "But if anyone says to you, 'This was offered to idols,' do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience' sake; for 'the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness. 'Conscience,' I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience?" more >>