Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Displaced New Zealand Churches Mourn Their Dead
- Three Human Rights Lawyers Disappear in China
- Eritrean Activists Protest in London for President's Ouster
- Saddleback Civil Forum to Host Tony Blair
Displaced New Zealand Churches Mourn Their Dead
One week after the deadly earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, the official death toll stands at 159. Religion News Service reports that this number may still double as dozens were trapped in the wreckage. On Sunday, worshippers gathered outdoors in New Zealand's second-largest city, meeting in unfamiliar churches and next to damaged buildings to reflect, pray, mourn and give thanks. "It's a day of everybody reaching out. We need to keep our spirits up," Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker wrote in the New Zealand Herald. "Some of our churches were run in the open air outside the damaged buildings," said the Rev. Dugald Wilson of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church on the outskirts of the city, which suffered minor damage. The Rev. Philip Robinson of St. Barnabus church tried to rally the congregation: "This is not called Christchurch for nothing. We will rise again," he said, drawing a few smiles.
Three Human Rights Lawyers Disappear in China
China's authoritarian government has quashed any Internet-facilitated gatherings that are not officially sanctioned as revolution continues to spread throughout the Middle East and Africa. During this crackdown, a well-known Christian human rights attorney, Jiang Tianyong, has disappeared. ChinaAid blames police for his Feb. 19 disappearance. His wife has been unable to ascertain his whereabouts, and Public Security Bureau officials have rebuffed her inquiries. Two other human rights lawyers have also disappeared. In a statement, ChinaAid said, "Such a gangsterization of the public power and such flagrant violation of the legal system and of civil rights can only aggravate the unrest in the Chinese society, and it will certainly motivate more people into joining the Jasmine Revolution of peaceful civil disobedience."
Eritrean Activists Protest in London for President's Ouster
Around 20 activists from the Eritrean diaspora in the United Kingdom held an impromptu demonstration outside the Eritrean Embassy in London yesterday. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that the gathering, inspired by the growing number of popular uprisings around Tunisia and Egypt, called on the Eritrean president to stand down. As the initially silent protestors held up banners listing the range of human rights violations underway in Eritrea and calling for the departure of President Isaias Afewerki and his regime, they met with smiles, thumbs up and offers of support and encouragement from passers-by and people in surrounding offices. Elsa Chyrum of Human Rights Concern-Eritrea said, "The human rights situation in Eritrea is going from bad to worse... We are here to say 'enough is enough', and we hope that Eritrean activists in other countries will join us to protest until this dictatorship is gone forever."
Saddleback Civil Forum to Host Tony Blair
Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church will host former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at its upcoming forum on "Peace in a Globalized Economy." Warren and Blair will talk about efforts to alleviate the five global giants Warren has identified in his PEACE Plan, including pandemic diseases, extreme poverty, illiteracy, self-centered leaders and spiritual emptiness. Warren's PEACE Plan seeks to mobilize millions of Christians around the world to Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation. Their discussion on March 6 will also focus on the unfolding situation in the Middle East and its impact worldwide. "I hope that this Forum will enlighten American people on Mr. Blair's work in partnering and bringing about this process of change," Warren said in a press release.