Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Iranian Christian Women Held in Notorious Prison Without Charge
- Sweden Becomes Seventh Country to Approve Same-Sex Marriage
- China: Imprisoned Christians Pleads for Help from Hospital
- India: Watchdog Says 73,000 Enter Prostitution Annually
Iranian Christian Women Held in Notorious Prison without Charge
Christian Post reports that Iranian women continue to hold two Christian women without charge since their March 5 arrest. Security forces accused Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, 30, and Maryam Rustampoor, 27, of "anti-government" activity, though no evidence has been presented even after several interrogations. Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN) reports that the women are practicing Christians, and that their arrest highlights growing religious intolerance towards Christians. In a one-minute daily phone call to her family on March 28, Esmaeilabad said she has an infection and high fever, and believes she is dying. The Iranian court refuses to allow the women out of prison unless they post $400,000 bail. FCNN notes the figure "is designed to make release impossible."
Sweden Becomes Seventh Country to Approve Same-Sex Marriage
BBC reports that Sweden will offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting May 1. The new law also enables couples to marry in religious ceremonies, but gives pastors and churches the right to refrain from performing ceremonies. The Lutheran Church, which is the largest denomination in Sweden, reportedly supports the new law, though individual clergy may opt out. Parliament overwhelmingly approved the measure on April 1. "Unfortunately this is not an April Fool's Day joke, this is reality," Yvonne Andersson, member of the Swedish parliament for the Christian Democrats, wrote on the party's Web site following the vote. Sweden is the fifth European country to approve same-sex marriages; Canada and South Africa have also approved them.
China: Imprisoned Christians Pleads for Help from Hospital
ASSIST News Service reports that a human rights group is raising concerns for the health and safety of a Christian man who has been imprisoned for more than a year. Alimujiang Yimiti was seen Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. (local time) at Nongsanshi Hospital in Kashgar, China, escorted by police and a prison doctor. "I'm sick. Tell my lawyer to come quickly to see me," he told bystanders. Alimujiang's lawyer met with him last week, which was only the second time anyone has been allowed to see him since his arrest in January 2008. He has already been tried once, when his case was returned to police for lack of evidence in May 2008. ChinaAid sources say the sudden change in his health is suspicious, and that abuse and torture from prison authorities cannot be discounted as local officials are desperate to justify his detention. His case is an increasing source of national embarrassment.
India: Watchdog Says 73,000 Enter Prostitution Annually
Mission News Network reports that of the estimated 900,000 sex workers in India, a full third of those are believe to be children with no escape. Watchdog India Partners says many of those were tricked into leaving neighboring Nepal or Sri Lanka, or another Indian state. Once away from home, India's 3,000 dialects often prevents them from understanding the language around them, decreasing their chances of escape. Kaytie Fielder, a regional representative for India Partners, says social and economic stability go hand in hand for impoverished countries. "The more we can address these issues, the more we can put money into helping these people and start making that shift. When we can protect the vulnerable and empower them, that is going to bring such a shift in our economy."