Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Christianity May Win Legal Status in Buddhist Bhutan
- Al-Qaida Group Calls Christians 'Legitimate Targets'
- Turkmenistan: Pastor Faces Prison Term
- Tomas Mostly Spares Haiti, May Worsen Cholera
Legal Status Foreseen for Christianity in Buddhist Bhutan
Compass Direct News reports that, for the first time in Bhutan's history, the Buddhist nation's government seems ready to grant official recognition and accompanying rights to tiny, underground population of Christians. The authority that regulates religious organizations will discuss in its next meeting - to be held by the end of December - how a Christian organization can be registered to represent its community, agency secretary Dorji Tshering told Compass by phone. Thus far only Buddhist and Hindu organizations have been registered by the authority, known as Chhoedey Lhentshog. As a result, only these two communities have the right to openly practice their religion and build places of worship. Asked if Christians were likely to get the same rights soon, Tshering replied, "Absolutely" - an apparent paradigm shift in policy, as Bhutan's National Assembly had previously banned open practice of non-Buddhist and non-Hindu religions.
Al-Qaida Group Calls Christians 'Legitimate Targets'
Al-Qaida in Iraq has declared that Christians in the Middle East are "legitimate targets" for violence, after the group carried out an unprecedented attack on a Baghdad church. "The sword of slaughter will not be lifted off the necks of their followers until they denounce what the dog of the Egyptian church has committed, and until they show the Mujahedeens their serious endeavor to pressure the combatant [Coptic] church for the release of our Muslim sisters, who are captive in the prisons of their [monasteries]," the militant group said Wednesday. Richard Land, a USCIRF commissioner and president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press these actions further alienate Al-Qaida from any "civilized" religion. "This is just further confirmation that they operate outside the rules of civilization. They should be condemned by every civilized people and every civilized faith," he said.
Turkmenistan: Pastor Faces Prison Term
Voice of the Martyrs reports that Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, who was sentenced to four years in prison on Oct. 21, will likely be sent to the Seydi labor camp. According to Forum 18 News, Pastor Nurliev's sentence includes forced treatment for an alleged drug addiction, and the prison has been accused of using psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs on prisoners. Christians in Turkmenistan said Pastor Nurliev, a diabetic, looked "very, very pale and thin" at his trial. They said the prosecution's witnesses were not credible and that "it was clear the whole thing was set up." At the trial, Pastor Nurliev was surrounded by secret police, who prevented his wife from approaching him.
Tomas Mostly Spares Haiti, May Worsen Cholera
Hurricane Tomas spared Haiti the worst of its wrath, although the storm still dumped large amounts of rain on the country's fragile tent cities. Relief coordinators say the subsequent flooding may have carried an outbreak of cholera north from its origins in the Artibonite Valley according to ABC News. Ted Steinhauer of Medical Teams International said 600 people have contracted the waterborne disease in the small town of Gros Morne, and thousands more are probably infected. Poor sanitation in the impoverished country has often forced residents to cook with the same water sources used for waste. Officials report that more than 500 people have died of the disease, which hadn't been seen in Haiti for a half century before it surfaced last month.