For the first time since the Islamic State seized most of the Nineveh province in northern Iraq over the summer, a Christian mass was successfully held at a church in a small Iraqi village nearly 20 miles north of the ISIS stronghold of Mosul this past Sunday, Iraqi News reports indicate.
Although reports coming from Iraqi news outlets originally said that the mass was held at the Mar Yacob Church in the Christian village of Telskuf, Father Paulus Thabit Makku, a Chaldean priest in Mosul, told Fides News that the Eucharist was held at the only other church in Telskuf, Saint Georges Chaldean church.
"We celebrated the Eucharist this Sunday in one of the Nineveh province's villages – the first time since locals were forced out last August by ISIS jihadists," Father Makku said. more >>
President Barack Obama needs to include the release of pastor Saeed Abedini, the U.S. citizen who's serving an eight-year sentence in Iran for his Christian faith, in the upcoming nuclear deal talks with Iran, said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
"We want to see ALL Americans held in Iran's prisons freed and have been working for more than two years to secure the release of pastor Saeed as we represent his wife and two young children who reside in the U.S.," Sekulow said in an article for Fox News on Tuesday.
A deadline for a deal concerning Iran's nuclear capabilities is set to be reached on Nov. 24, and Sekulow suggested that the Obama administration is ready to trust that Iran will not create nuclear weapons, as it has promised. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that he trusts Iran's fatwa, a religious declaration, "enormously as a matter of religious edict." more >>
A 40-year-old Christian man was arrested for blasphemy in Lahore, Pakistan, and has been charged with insulting the Prophet Mohammad, the same offense that Christian mother-of-five Asia Bibi is facing the death penalty for.
Qaiser Ayub, a computer science professor, had been a fugitive for close to three years, Fides News Agency reported. He was charged in 2011 of having written blasphemous comments on his blog, and has been avoiding police ever since.
Twenty-three Christian families who were unable to flee the city of Raqqa in northern Syria, which terror group ISIS has made its stronghold, are reportedly facing Islamic fanaticism and a "protection tax" they will be forced to pay in order to keep their homes.
Fides News Agency noted that as many as 1,500 Christian families had lived in the city prior to the start of the Syrian war three years ago. Many have since fled, especially in the past few months with the rise of ISIS, which has captured cities across Iraq and Syria. The remaining Armenian Christians in Raqqa were unable to escape for various reasons, ranging from lack of resources to old age and health problems.
They were told that starting Sunday, they would have to pay jizya, or the "protection tax" that amounts to $535. Fides stated it's likely that the families, who've been impoverished by the war, will be unable to pay the tax and will be evicted from their homes. more >>
Despite the fact that Islamic State leaders have their eyes set on expanding the caliphate outside of Iraq and Syria, a recent poll surveying respondents from seven Arab nations and refugees in Syria found that ISIS is overwhelmingly unpopular among people there.
A telephone poll, conducted by the Arab opinion index team at the Qatar-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, surveyed respondents from Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestinian territory, and Syria (refugees) and found that 85 percent of its respondents view the Islamic State terrorist organization as "negative" or "negative to some extent." Only 11 percent of the respondents said they held "positive" or relatively positive views on ISIS.
The survey also found that nearly six in 10 respondents "strongly support" or "support" the U.S.-led coalition's aims to destroy ISIS, although 75 percent said they have "negative" or "negative to some extent" opinions about U.S. foreign policy in the Arab region. About one-third of the respondents said they either "strongly oppose" or "oppose" the international coalition's efforts. more >>
A new initiative is encouraging supporters of Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini to purchase and send postcards to the White House to urge President Barack Obama to demand the release Abedini as part of the upcoming nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The prepared message to Obama on the postcards reads:
"A man in your position has been given great power and responsibility to represent every American, whether on domestic or foreign soil. Please hold to your own words, that no one is left behind. We, the American people, ask you to do everything within your power to bring U.S. citizen, pastor, husband & father, Saeed Abedini, home to his family from his time of incarceration in Iran." more >>