American citizen Jeffrey Fowle was freed by North Korea on Tuesday, after having been arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a sailor's club in the city of Chongjin. While Fowle is to be flown home to his family in Ohio, the White House has urged the two other American citizens held by North Korea to be released as well.
"While this is a positive decision ... we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Fowle, a 56-year-old street repair worker from Miamisburg, Ohio, was accused by the North Korean government of religious proselytizing, which is considered a serious offense in the Pacific nation. more >>
A group working to protect Christians from blasphemy laws has said that international pressure on Pakistan is needed to overturn the death penalty handed to Christian mother of five Asia Bibi. Christian leaders in Pakistan have vowed to continue appealing the case and fighting for the mother's life.
"We continue to hope because, as Christians, our faith nourishes hope. We continue to pray for Asia Bibi and for her release, so that the Lord protects and comforts her. But there are many elements that are not conducive to optimism," said Haroon Barkat, director of the Masihi Foundation, in an interview with Fides News Agency on Tuesday.
Barkat, whose group works in Pakistan to protect Christians falsely accused of blasphemy, added that "international pressures and mobilization can be useful" in influencing the case. He said that above all, "the political will of the government and of the highest authorities in Pakistan is needed" to put an end to the many false blasphemy cases where Christians in Pakistan are persecuted. more >>
Two Christian pastors and a deacon have each been given six-year sentences by an Iranian court. A persecution watchdog group has expressed concern over the development, noting that the prisons are isolated and will force the men's families to travel great distances to see them.
"We are deeply concerned by the six-year sentences given to pastors [Benham] Irani and [Matthias] Haghnejad and deacon Silas Rabbani, and the fact that they will serve these sentences so far from their families and home towns," said Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper.
"We are particularly appalled by the extra six years given to pastor Irani, who has already endured ill-treatment whilst in prison and now faces nearly a decade in prison on trumped-up charges. We urge the Iranian government to release without delay every person who is imprisoned for their faith. Their incarceration contravenes international covenants guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief, to which Iran is party." more >>
Canon Andrew White, the Anglican pastor who's known as the Vicar of Baghdad, says that after U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011, the country has been facing "total devastation," even worse than under Saddam Hussein. White also described what Christians are facing as one of the worst persecutions in history.
"It was total devastation, it was the most horrendous thing," White told The News Tribune in Takoma, Washington, Sunday when speaking about the persecution Christians have endured in Iraq since the U.S. pulled its troops out in 2011. "The terrible thing that the Americans have to realize is that all of their intervention, everything they tried to do, has totally been wasted. Nothing has been achieved by this at all."
He continued, "Are we worse now than under Sadam? A million times worse." more >>
Atheist TV host Bill Maher has criticized Islam again on his HBO show "Real Time," this time speaking out against the death sentence for blasphemy handed to a Christian mother of five from Pakistan.
"This is not a blogger, this is not a mob on the street, this is a very high court in Pakistan [that said] a woman said a bad thing about the prophet, and now she must due.
James Foley, who would have been 41 years old Saturday had he not been brutally beheaded by ISIS militants in August, was remembered at a memorial at his home church in Rochester, New Hampshire, which was also attended by Gov. Maggie Hassan and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
"I'll never make complete sense of why Jim died," New York Daily News quoted the slain journalist's brother, Michael Foley, as saying at the service at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary church Saturday. "But I don't think that's for me to understand."
Foley, who was the first U.S. citizen to have been killed by the Islamic State, or ISIS terrorists, was a freelance journalist and photojournalist covering the Syrian Civil War for Agence France-Presse and GlobalPost when he was abducted on Nov. 22, 2012, in northwestern Syria. more >>