Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Only 57 Churches Remain in Iraq, Down From 300 in 2003
- Kerry Finally Condemns Saeed Abedini's Detention
- Oregon High School Creates Unisex Bathrooms for Transgender Students
- Nigeria: Kano Bus Bomb Prompts Religious Leaders to Joint Call for Urgent Measures
Only 57 Churches Remain in Iraq, Down From 300 in 2003
Iraq had 300 churches and 1.4 million Christians in 2003, but now only 57 churches and about half a million Christians remain, with members of the minority fleeing Islamist attacks, the Christian Post reports. "The last 10 years have been the worst for Iraqi Christians because they bore witness to the biggest exodus and migration in the history of Iraq," said William Warda, head of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a registered local non-governmental organization. Patriarch Louis Sako of the Chaldean Church said the remaining 57 churches also continue to be targeted. Iraqi Christians have faced several bomb attacks, killings, abductions, torture and forced conversions to Islam ever since the U.S.-led liberation war began in 2003. Christians have not only been targeted for their faith by al Qaeda and related terror groups, but have also been caught in the crossfire of the Arab-Kurd and Shi'a-Sunni conflicts, which rose to new heights after the 2003 U.S. operations.
Kerry Finally Condemns Saeed Abedini's Detention
Last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry finally addressed the case of Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, WORLD Magazine reports. In his statement, Kerry said he was "deeply concerned" and "disturbed" by Abedini's eight-year sentence in the notoriously brutal Evin Prison. Kerry also condemned what amounts to torture: Abedini has been physically and psychologically abused and denied proper medical attention. In a letter to his wife, Abedini wrote that guards beat him but deny him medical care because they consider him "unclean." Kerry's statement, the first official word from the State Department on Abedini's case, is long overdue: Iranian authorities have detained Abedini for six months for his involvement in the house church movement in Iran, even though he hasn't worked actively with house churches since 2009. His wife, Naghmeh, has ceaselessly lobbied for awareness and action on her husband's case. Earlier this month, she testified during a congressional hearing sponsored by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. "Our family needs your help," she said. More than 100 people attended, but none from the State Department. Following the hearing, six congressmen sent a letter to Kerry, condemning the State Department's absence and virtual silence on the case.
Oregon High School Creates Unisex Bathrooms for Transgender Students
An Oregon high school has created six unisex bathrooms to be used by transgender students, Fox News reports. Officials at Portland's Grant High School, the district's largest, say four student restrooms and two staff restrooms will be open to all students, but create an option for five to 10 transgender students at the school. The move is a first in the district and an unusual move for a K-12 school when compared to others in the country. Typically, according to The Oregonian, schools make staff or other small bathrooms available. "We just need to make sure that all students are safe and comfortable here, and that they have their needs met," said Kristyn Westphal, Grant High vice principal. "If they feel unsafe using the bathroom, that's a problem." The conversion cost less than $500, most coming from changing to interior locks.
Nigeria: Kano Bus Bomb Prompts Religious Leaders to Joint Call for Urgent Measures
A car bomb attack in a Christian enclave of Kano, the largest city in majority-Muslim northern Nigeria, has heightened religious and ethnic tensions throughout the country, World Watch Monitor reports. At least 25 people have died and at least 60 others were injured following the March 18 suicide bomb attack in a bus station in the Christian district of Sabon Gari, primarily used by passengers heading for Nigeria's mostly Christian south. Five buses were destroyed, one reported to be full of people. No group has yet claimed responsibility, but the manner of attack is similar to previous ones by the Islamist Boko Haram group. Its scale prompted Christian, Muslim and political leaders to urge the federal government to take urgent measures to avert a major crisis. The Christian Association of Nigeria and its main Muslim counterpart, Jama'atu Nasril Islam (Society for the Victory of Islam), both noted the Kano suicide attack was capable of threatening the unity of Nigeria if such attacks continue. CAN president Ayo Oritsejafor condemned "the barbaric and sustained bomb and gun attacks on innocent Nigerians" and called on the federal government to support the Christian association's call for the branding of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, or FTO.
Publication date: March 26, 2013