Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- China Rejects U.S. Report on Religious Freedom
- Christians Attacked by Anti-Government Protesters in Syria
- Some Wary of Black-Listing Egypt for Rights Violations
- Asia Bibi Still Imprisoned despite Internet Rumors
China Rejects U.S. Report on Religious Freedom
The Australian Associated Press reports that Beijing has dismissed a U.S. report accusing China of seriously violating religious freedom. "We advise the so-called 'US Commission on International Religious Freedom' [USCIRF] to abandon its prejudices, respect facts and stop intervening in China's domestic affairs," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement Wednesday. The annual USCIRF report, released on April 28, cites China for severely curtailing the freedoms of Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs and torturing practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement. More than 500 Christians and dozens of Catholic clergy have been detained in the past year. The US State Department lists China as one of eight "countries of particular concern", or CPCs, for religious freedom, along with Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
Christians Attacked by Anti-Government Protesters in Syria
Anti-government protests in Syria have increasingly targeted Christians in the country, according to sources for International Christian Concern. One Christian leader said, “People want to go out and peacefully ask for certain changes, but Muslim Salafi groups are sneaking in with their goal, which is not to make changes for the betterment of Syria, but to take over the country with their agenda." He said Christians have been told join protests or else leave the country, at least one Christian home was attacked, and several churches received written threats over Easter. Another Syrian Christian leader told ICC, “If Muslim Salafis gain political influence, they will make sure that there will be no trace of Christianity in Syria.” ICC says if the situation further deteriorates, the country may see an exodus similar to that of Iraq's Christians, in which more than half the Christian population has left over the last eight years.
Some Wary of Black-Listing Egypt for Rights Violations
Placing Egypt on a U.S. State Department list that penalizes countries for their lack of religious freedom would be a mistake, according to some Egyptian human rights activists and Christian leaders. Compass Direct News reports that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued its annual report on April 28, recommending that Egypt be placed on the list of “Countries of Particular Concern,” or CPCs. While many in Egypt agree with the report’s assertion that religious persecution and sectarian violence are serious issues in Egypt, some said the designation would give the burgeoning government a black eye before it has a chance to address the issues. “We don’t think it is helpful to add Egypt to any black list this year,” said Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “It sends a negative message that Egypt is worse off this year now that it is not being ruled by a dictator.” Bahgat said that although the number of attacks is similar to this time last year, there have been “qualitative changes” in the attacks that he finds “very disturbing,” including the demolition in March of church building in Sool village.
Asia Bibi Still Imprisoned despite Internet Rumors
Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death last year for alleged blasphemy, has not been pardoned and freed despite Internet rumors reporting the story. ASSIST News Service reports that Bibi has been imprisoned since June 2009 on accusation of blasphemy, and was sentenced to death on Nov. 8, 2010, by Judge Naveed Iqbal. Previously retracted stories recounting her supposed pardon by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari were recently rerun due to dating errors, but the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement Pakistan (CLAAS) says Bibi's case has not changed. Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by Muslim field workers following a dispute over their different faiths. When she was asked to bring a cup of water to one of them, the women refused to drink from it, saying that it had been touched by a Christian and was therefore “unclean.” Her conviction and sentence caused an international outcry and shone a spotlight on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.