Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Nuclear Threat Complicates Japan Relief Efforts
- Campaign to End Persecution of Christians in North Korea
- Iran Website Suspended after Reporting Bible Burning
- Christians in Turkey Face Harassment; Murder Trial Stalls
Nuclear Threat Complicates Japan Relief Efforts
The danger of radiation from damaged nuclear reactors has greatly complicated Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts in Japan, one member of the assessment team said Tuesday. Baptist Press reports that the third explosion at a nuclear plant exposed fuel rods for several hours, sending radiation levels soaring to 163 times previous levels. The government responded by ordering people living within 19 miles of the nuclear complex to stay indoors to avoid exposure. "The crisis at the nuclear power plant further complicates the situation," said one member of the Baptist Global Response disaster relief assessment team who arrived in Tokyo March 12. "Presently our ability to respond to the tsunami is minimal because access to the coastal areas is severely curtailed as the government responds to the crises in the area. We are concentrating our assessment on non-coastal areas where damage was caused by the earthquake."
Campaign to End Persecution of Christians in North Korea
Human rights group Release International is urging christians to pray for their fellow believer in North Korea as part of a new campaign. Christian Today reports that the One Day campaign also asks people to sign a petition calling for religious freedom in the secretive country, which Open Doors has labeled the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Christians can be imprisoned if they are caught praying, much less reading a forbidden Bible, and their families often disappear with them. One former prisoner, identified only as Mr. Kim for security reasons, told Release, “If there is a hell in this world, then it is the North Korean concentration camps. [In the camps] there is only fear, and absolutely no connection to the outside world... We cannot say it is about human life. There is no freedom to speak."
Iran Website Suspended after Reporting Bible Burning
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that Mohabat News, the only active news agency inside Iran reporting on the recent mass arrests of Christians in the country, was suddenly suspended yesterday. It is unclear why the website has been disabled, but authorities have previously shut down websites run by human rights groups and critics of the regime under the guise of attacking "cyber warfare." One staff member of Mohabat News was allegedly threatened via an email from the Revolutionary Guard, which stated that he and his family would be targeted, and “bad things” would happen to them as a result of Mohabat’s output. The suspension of Mohabat News came the day after it reported the seizure and burning of 600 New Testaments by authorities in western Iran on Feb. 7.
Christians in Turkey Face Harassment; Murder Trial Stalls
Though the horrific scale of the 2007 Malatya murders has not been repeated in Turkey’s Protestant church, a recent report shows harassment continues to be a daily problem for the country’s Christians. In a report published earlier this year, the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches's (TEK) Committee for Religious Freedom and Legal Affairs showed Turkish laws and “negative attitudes of civil servants” continue to make it nearly impossible for non-Muslims to establish places of worship. Compass Direct News reports that missionary activities are still considered a national threat despite the existence of Turkish laws guaranteeing citizens the freedom to propagate and teach their faith, and children are victims of discrimination at school, according to the report. “After four years [since the Malatya murders], Turkey’s religious freedoms have not improved as desired,” said attorney Erdal Dogan.