Six evangelical Christians were shot to death at the weekend in El Salvador by gang members, local officials have reported.
The Christian men, whose ages ranged from 16 to 54, were killed in Ahuachapán State, a rural western region close to the Guatemala border.
According to Fox News Latino, those targeted were leaving a church service when gunfire broke out. Investigators have been unable to determine what motivated the shootings, though gang wars frequently occur in this part of the country. more >>
The number of Catholic priests, lay leaders, and missionaries assassinated increased last year, according to a report by an Italian Catholic organization. Twenty-two Catholic church leaders and faithful were murdered in 2013, reported the Fides News Agency of Rome.
This number was comprised of 19 priests, 1 nun, and two lay leaders. It is an increase from 2012, which had a total of 12 murders.
"As it has been for some time, Fides' list does not only include missionaries ad gentes in the strict sense, but all pastoral care workers who died violent deaths," reads a Fides article. "We do not propose to use the term 'martyrs', if not in its etymological meaning of 'witnesses' since it is up to the Church to judge their possible merits and also because of the [scarcity] of available information in most cases, with regard to their life and even the circumstances of their death." more >>
WASHINGTON – Nine out of the ten countries ranked the most oppressive for Christians to live in were due to Islamic extremism, according to Open Doors' annual World Watch List, which was released Wednesday.
With the exception of North Korea – ranked No. 1 for the 12th year in a row – every other country on the top 10 list had as its source of persecution, Islamic extremism. North Korea's persecution of Christians was due to communist oppression and dictatorial paranoia, explained Open Doors in its 2014 World Watch List. According to the report, the countries with the most extreme persecution besides North Korea are: Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen, respectively.
Open Doors announced the rankings for its 2014 World Watch List, which documented the 50 nations least tolerant of their Christian population, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Christian persecution watchdog group's methodology involved measuring the level of Christian freedom found in five spheres of life: private, family, community, national, and church. A sixth sphere regarding degree of violence also factors in to the rankings. more >>
Asia Noreen Bibi, the first Pakistani woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010, thanked Pope Francis and all the churches praying for her and credited them with her survival after four-and-a-half years in prison.
"I am very grateful to all the churches that are praying for me and fighting for my freedom. If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me," Bibi wrote in a Christmas letter to Pope Francis. While Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010, the verdict must be upheld by a superior court, and many petitions have protested her imprisonment.
Bibi lamented the fact that, while many people have spoken and fought for her, it is "to no avail." Even though she is still in prison, she said, "I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible." Bibi wrote that in her dire situation, "Only God will be able to free me." more >>
American leaders denounced the burning of a Christian leader's library in Tripoli, Lebanon, last Friday night as based on false pretenses and said it's a threat to religious liberty.
"The really bad news is that this is not out of the ordinary," Robert P. George, chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. George emphasized the need to advocate for religious freedom across the world to prevent attacks like this one.
The Friday night fire burned two-thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts in the Al-Saeh library owned by Greek Orthodox priest Ibrahim Surouj, RT reported. The arsonists targeted Surouj due to an alleged pamphlet insulting the Prophet Mohammed was found in one of the library books. When Surouj met with Islamic leaders in the city, he stated that he had nothing to do with the pamphlet. more >>
Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, paid a historic visit to Coptic pope Tawadros II on Sunday, the first such meeting in 40 years. While the meeting was aimed at reassuring Christians that the new government will be better than the Muslim Brotherhood, a watchdog group has warned that it remains to be seen whether this move will benefit Christians, or if it will lead to new attacks instead.
"This visit could be seen as a positive or negative. Of course, under former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, Christians were even more singled out and persecuted," Open Doors USA Media Relations Director Jerry Dykstra told The Christian Post in an email on Monday.
The watchdog group has closely monitored the attacks Christians in Egypt suffered this past year following the fall of Morsi, when Islamist groups attacked and burned down Christian churches, schools, orphanages and bookstores. Open Doors even asked for emergency support of $430,000 in August following news that followers of Christ were also being murdered. more >>