Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Many Tsunami Victims Still Homeless
- US Deplores North Korean Decision to Cut Off UN Food Aid
- Indian Catholics Attacked on Way to Christmas Mass
Many Tsunami Victims Still Homeless
As the world conducted ceremonies to remember the tragedy of the Central Asian tsunami last week, questions continue to crop up as to why many in the earthquake and tsunami zones remain homeless and why more infrastructure has not been restored. At least one spokesman for an experienced disaster aid agency says such operations take time. A recent news report in the Financial Times about the amount of overhead costs for the United Nations in their expenditures of donated tsunami relief funds has raised many eyebrows. But World Vision president Richard Stearns says people have to understand what it takes to undergird large scale relief operations and also need to realize that the scope of this one was unprecedented. During a recent appearance on Fox News he explained that, as a result of the tsunami, the "equivalent of the populations of Seattle, Boston, and Washington were made homeless, and overhead is to be expected when you set up a massive relief operation like this." Also, Stearns commented, it takes much longer to rebuild a society than most people suspect for all kinds of logistical reasons, and "we can't expect this to happen in a year." Stearns feels the tsunami affected region has done pretty well in the push toward recovery, and he says the level of progress thus far is acceptable.
US Deplores North Korean Decision to Cut Off UN Food Aid
Hundreds of thousands of impoverished North Koreans are likely to suffer in the New Year because of Pyongyang's decision to stop food assistance from the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and other humanitarian agencies by year's end, the U.S. government said. The move has forced the U.S. to suspend its food aid, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Thursday. Because of concerns about the diversion of aid away from those most in need, Washington makes international monitoring of food distribution a condition for providing help to North Korea. "Until and unless we can be sure the food we give is really going to those who need it, then we can't continue to provide aid," Ereli said. He called Pyongyang's decision "unfortunate but not inconsistent with past North Korean practice, which is to ignore the needs of its people and let them starve for inexplicable reasons." North Korea last September told the U.N. to stop emergency food deliveries and also ordered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to leave the country by the end of the year. Up to 2.5 million North Koreans died in a famine in the latter half of the 1990s, a situation exacerbated by severe hailstorms, floods and a drought in a relatively fertile part of the country.
Indian Catholics Attacked on Way to Christmas Mass
Hindu extremists launched two attacks on Catholics in the northern state of Rajasthan during the week before Christmas. On Saturday (December 24), nine members of the Hindu extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) attacked four Catholics, including a priest, as they traveled by jeep to a Christmas mass that night in a village in Banswara district. Pulling them from the jeep, the extremists stripped them down to their underwear and beat them until they were unconscious. The victims lay on the road for four hours before they were discovered. In separate incidents, two nuns were attacked as they waited at a bus stop and a statue of the Virgin Mary was stolen.