The government of Sudan has reaffirmed that it is banning the construction of all new Christian churches in the Muslim-dominated country, prompting "deep concern" from a persecution watchdog group.
"We are deeply concerned by Minister Shalil Abdullah's statement reaffirming the policy to deny new church permits. This policy, and the continued practice of demolishing and confiscating church land, constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief, guaranteed in article 6 and 38 of Sudan's Interim Constitution as well as article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is signatory," Andy Dipper, Chief Operating Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Abdullah, the Sudanese Minister for Guidance and Religious Endowments, reportedly explained that due to the country's separation from South Sudan, where many Christians have fled, the existing churches in the Republic of Sudan are sufficient for the nation's minority Christians. 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 >>
The Obama administration has brought an accused Libyan terrorist named Ahmed Abu Khattala to Washington for trial. His saga reveals how the government views the Islamist threat, and it's discouraging. Fortunately, a much better alternative exists.
Abu Khattala stands accused of taking part in the murder of an ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi in September 2012. After an achingly slow investigation, during which time the suspect lived in the open and defiantly gave media interviews, the American military seized him on June 15. After being transported by sea and air to Washington, D.C., Abu Khattala was jailed, provided with a defense attorney, Michelle Peterson, indicted, arraigned, and, after listening to an Arabic translation of the proceedings, pleaded not guilty to a single charge of conspiracy and requested a halal diet. He potentially faces life in prison.
This scenario presents two problems. First, Abu Khattala enjoys the full panoply of protections offered by the U.S. legal system (he actually was read his Miranda rights, meaning his right to stay silent and to consult with a lawyer), making conviction uncertain. As The New York Times explains, proving the charges against him will be "particularly challenging" because of the circumstances of the attacks, which took place in the midst of a civil war and in a country brimming with hostility to the United States, where concerns about security meant that U.S. law investigators had to wait for weeks to go to the crime scenes to collect evidence, and the prosecution depends on testimony from Libyan witnesses brought over to the United States who may well falter under cross-examination. more >>
Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called on his country's Muslim and Christian's populations to come together, while blaming Israel for stoking tensions between Arabs who practiced the different faiths.
Bassil, who serves a country with a robust Christian population, — Christians are estimated around 35 percent of the total population of 4.3 million people — said that the nation should conceive of its diversity as an asset.
"We should be aware as Lebanese, that our source of strength lies in our unity as Muslims and Christians," Bassil said on Sunday as reported by The Daily Star, stressing "the importance and essentiality of Lebanese unity." more >>
Western Christians fail to fully grasp the suffering of Palestinians, including its Christian population, Bethlehem Bible College professor and Palestinian Christian told The Christian Post on Monday.
"The Christians in the west, most of them, they don't know the realities here. They don't know who is occupying who, who is oppressing who, who is confiscating whose land, who is building walls to try and separate people from one another," Alex Awad, who also pastors East Jerusalem Church, told The Christian Post.
"In the United States and much of Europe people — they just don't understand the realities on the ground," he added. more >>
For Egypt's Copts, the military's removal of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power was nothing short of a miracle. After two and a half years in which Islamists dominated every electoral contest they faced, there was little if any hope on the horizon. Since the 25th of January revolution, Coptic despair manifested itself in an unprecedented wave of emigration from Egypt, which intensified during the Brotherhood's year in power. Following the massive demonstrations against the Brotherhood's rule and the military coup of July 3rd 2013, Copts were in a frenzied mood celebrating their deliverance; a deliverance that would prove short lived, however.
The Copts represent the Middle East's largest Christian population, and were once one of the pillars of early Christianity, with some of its early saints framing what it meant to be Christian. However, centuries of persecution and struggles for survival have left Copts a small minority in their homeland. Modernity brought new challenges to the community, though it removed the legal second-class status in which Copts lived in the Middle Ages. In recent years Copts have come under increasing pressure due to the discriminatory policies of successive governments, as well as violent attacks by their fellow citizens.
During President Morsi's rule, previous patterns of religious discrimination were reinforced and more alarming ones emerged. At the national level, Coptic representation in decision making bodies – from the Cabinet to the upper echelons of the bureaucracy – dwindled to the point of non-existence. Islamists dominated the drafting of the constitution and its articles were a clear setback to religious freedom and equality. Prominent Islamist leaders painted Copts as responsible for Egypt's ills and disasters, creating an incubating environment for violence. On a local level, violent attacks on Copts increased and in April 2013 they even reached the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo – the residence of the Pope. In the absence of the rule of law, forced evictions were imposed by local 'reconciliation' sessions. Blasphemy charges brought against Copts accused of insulting Islam were often accompanied by violent attacks on Copts in the area. more >>