The plight of U.S.-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini was highlighted by Secretary of State John Kerry during his remarks for the State Department's 2013 Report on International Religious Freedom, with Kerry promising to continue to work for the pastor's release.
"In Iran, U.S. Iranian citizen Pastor Saeed Abedini remains imprisoned. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to eight years behind bars simply because of his religious beliefs. We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it," Kerry stated.
"And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah's Witnesses to Baha'is to Ahmadi Muslims." more >>
Chinese police in the city of Wenzhou have removed a cross from a local church in their most recent crackdown on Christianity in the Asian country, specifically in the Zhejiang province. Media outlets report that local church members gathered around their fallen cross, weeping and praying.
Although congregants attempted to protect their church, hundreds of police arrived at the Longgang Huai En Church in Wenzhou on Monday and removed the 10-foot-tall red cross from the church's steeple. Wenzhou is considered to be "China's Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population.
According to the Associated Press, about 200 congregants attempted to protect the cross from being removed, but ultimately allowed the police to take down the religious symbol using a crane. Police officials have said the cross violated a city ordinance regarding the height of buildings in Wenzhou. The cross was returned to congregants, who reportedly wept and prayed around their destroyed religious image. more >>
Persecution of Christians in Syria is part of the worst displacement of religious communities in recent history, according to a recently released report from the U.S. State Department.
Released Monday by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, the International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 stated that last year "the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory."
"In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs," read the report. more >>
Meriam Ibrahim, arrested last August in Sudan and sentenced to death after being accused by family members of apostasy and adultery, was not only pressured to recant her Christian faith and thereby nullify her marriage, but was kept in shackles while giving birth to her second child in prison. At least one Christian woman, also from Africa, was lauding the 27-year-old's resilience, and thanking her for bearing "heroic witness to the virtues of faith, marriage, and motherhood."
"I am a Christian and I will remain a Christian," Ibrahim resolutely declared in a Sudanese courtroom in May, where she was sentenced to death for alleged apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery.
As the married mother of two told reporters last week after finallly gaining her freedom, "Thanks to God we are all fine. I trusted God from the first instant. I knew that He would not abandon me." more >>
President Obama has nominated Rabbi David Saperstein to be the next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom at the State Department, a position that has been vacant since late last year. The announcement on Monday also marks the first time that a non-Christian will hold the job, which was created in 1998.
"I am grateful that Rabbi Saperstein has chosen to dedicate his talent to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead," Obama said. Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, now awaits Senate confirmation.
The nomination came with some controversy, namely the fact the post sat vacant for nine months. Intended for the purpose of promoting and defending religious freedom around the world, the position was not filled for two years until Suzan Johnson Cook took the post in 2011. However, Cook left in October during a time of intensified religious persecution globally, especially in the Middle East. more >>
The end of Christianity in Iraq could be "very near" according to Canon Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, as Islamic militants continue their attacks of Christians and the central government.
"Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing," White said in an interview with BBC Radio 4 over the weekend. "We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.
"Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near." more >>