When "12 Years a Slave" Director Steve McQueen accepted the Oscar for "Best Picture" on Sunday night, he dedicated the award to the 21 million people still in slavery today. Experts drew a comparison between sex trafficking and the struggles of Solomon Northrup, the film's main character, and also compared modern slavery and Christian persecution.
"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup," McQueen declared in his Oscar acceptance speech. "I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today." Fact-checking website PolitiFact rated his statement "Mostly True," since he cited the 2012 estimate from the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency.
Taryn Manstrean, director of Communications at Shared Hope International, a group dedicated to fighting human sex trafficking, compared the struggles of the Oscar-winning film's main character, Solomon Northup, to those of women in the sex trade. "He was a free man and was taken into slavery – he struggled to escape and survive," Manstrean explained. "In the exact same way, most of these girls did not start a slave." more >>
Out of fear of losing their lives or religion, a tiny group of Christians who still remain in the northern Syrian city of Rakka have agreed to pay off Islamists with a "Tribute Tax" so they won't be killed.
Earlier this year, Rakka's Christian leaders and representatives from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an Islamist branch of Al-Qaeda, signed a dhimma or protection agreement, under which members of the church must now pay for their own physical protection, reported Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.
Under the dhimma, wealthy Christians must pay the ISIS $500 twice a year per person or four gold dinars. Middle class and poor Christians will pay half and a quarter of the fine respectively, "on condition they do not conceal their true financial situation." more >>
The religious persecution in Syria deepened this week, as evidenced by a written ultimatum purportedly distributed by the rebel jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to Christians in the northern provincial capital of Raqqa. Rejecting conversion to Islam or death, some 20 Christian leaders of that city held firm in their faith and submitted to the Islamists' demands to live by as dhimmis.
Under this arrangement, in exchange for their lives and the ability to worship as Christians, they must abide by purported seventh-century rules of the Caliph Umar. According to the Raqqa ultimatum, these include bans on renovating and rebuilding churches and monasteries, many of which need repair because they've been shelled and blown up over the past three years, and bans against the public display of crosses and Christian symbols and the ringing of bells. They are forbidden from reading scripture indoors loud enough for Muslims outside to hear, and the practice of their faith must be confined within the walls of their remaining churches, not exercised publicly (at, for example, funeral or wedding processions).
They are prohibited from saying anything offensive about Muslims or Islam. The women must be enshrouded, and alcohol is banned. more >>
JUBA, South Sudan – Sudanese authorities arrested a pastor in Omdurman as he was preaching on Sunday and threatened that he would "face justice" unless he resigned his position, sources said.
Personnel from the Criminal Investigation Department entered the compound of Omdurman Evangelical Church and arrested the Rev. Yahya Abdelrahim Nalu as part of a government plan to take over properties of the church's denomination, the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), the sources said. Omdurman is opposite Khartoum on the River Nile.
The Federal Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments seeks to replace Nalu, senior leader at the church and moderator of the SPEC Synod, with a government-appointed committee that favors turning SPEC properties over to the government, they said. more >>
A South Korean Christian missionary imprisoned in North Korea said during a recent press conference in front of government officials that he is a "criminal" guilty of "anti-state" crimes such as attempting to turn the country into a Christian nation.
At the press conference on Thursday, Baptist missionary Kim Jung Wook pleaded with North Korean officials to grant him mercy and said that he had conspired with South Korea's intelligence agency to build house churches in North Korea. Kim was arrested by North Korean officials in October, and Thursday marks his first public appearance since his arrest.
"I was thinking of turning North Korea into a religious country, and destroying its present government and political system," Kim said. "I received money from the intelligence services and followed instructions from them, and arranged North Koreans to act as their spies. And I also set up an underground church in China, in Dandong, and got the members to talk and write, for me to collect details about the reality of life in North Korea, and I provided this to the intelligence services." more >>
Why are Christians, as a new Pew report documents, the most persecuted religious group in the world? And why is their persecution occurring primarily throughout the Islamic world? (In the category on "Countries with Very High Government Restrictions on Religion," Pew lists 24 countries-20 of which are Islamic and precisely where the overwhelming majority of "the world's" Christians are actually being persecuted.)
The reason for this ubiquitous phenomenon of Muslim persecution of Christians is threefold:
Christianity is the largest religion in the world. There are Christians practically everywhere around the globe, including in much of the Muslim world. Moreover, because much of the land that Islam seized was originally Christian-including the Middle East and North Africa, the region that is today known as the "Arab world"-Muslims everywhere are still confronted with vestiges of Christianity, for example, in Syria, where many ancient churches and monasteries are currently being destroyed by al-Qaeda linked, U.S. supported "freedom fighters." Similarly, in Egypt, where Alexandria was a major center of ancient Christianity before the 7th century Islamic invasions, there still remain at least 10 million Coptic Christians (though some put the number at much higher). Due to sheer numbers alone, then, indigenous Christians are much more visible and exposed to attack by Muslims than other religious groups throughout the Arab world. Yet as CNS News puts it, "President Obama expressed hope that the 'Arab Spring' would give rise to greater religious freedom in North Africa and the Middle East, which has had the world's highest level of hostility towards religion in every year since 2007, when Pew first began measuring it. However, the study finds that these regions actually experienced the largest increase in religious hostilities in 2012." more >>