Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Repression of Protestants Continues in Uzbekistan
- Iraqi Refugees in Crisis
- Pope Speaks Out again on Islam
- China's Catholics Throng to Church
Repression of Protestants Continues in Uzbekistan
ASSIST News Service reports that a new crackdown on Protestant churches across Uzbekistan has seen a woman given a suspended prison sentence of six months. Sharofat Allamova was sentenced after police confiscated Christian literature from her, Protestant sources told Forum 18 News Service. The day after she was sentenced, a Protestant pastor and a colleague were fined for “illegal” religious activity in Karakalpakstan. The pastor received a fine of about one year’s average salary. Forum 18 reported that several different state agencies in the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent are engaged in simultaneous moves to close down a Presbyterian congregation and confiscate its church building. Meanwhile a group of Protestants in the south of the country were detained in mid-September and had religious literature confiscated. Twelve people face charges under the Administrative Code. The crackdown comes as the authorities are reported to have stepped up restrictions over Muslim prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which officially began in Uzbekistan on Sept. 13.
Iraqi Refugees in Crisis
Millions of Iraqis have fled their homes in order to seek asylum in neighboring countries, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom was told at a Sept. 19 hearing, Baptist Press reports. Religious minorities, specifically the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, Sabean Mandaeans and Yazidis, have almost completely evacuated the country, witnesses said. The testimonies of key leaders working for resolution of the refugee crisis were heard in the second of two hearings held by the commission about religious freedom in Iraq. The focus of this hearing was the large numbers of refugees who have flooded surrounding countries during the war in Iraq and how the U.S. should assist these people groups. Two million Iraqis have been displaced within the borders, while 2.2 million have left the country, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Pope Speaks Out again on Islam
The Pope has again risked provoking the wrath of the Islamic world, by criticizing its treatment of Christians, ASSIST News Service reports. Simon Caldwell, writing in the British Daily Mail, said, “Benedict XVI attacked Muslim nations where Christians are either persecuted or given the status of second-class citizens under the Shariah Islamic law. He also defended the rights of Muslims to convert to Christianity, an act which warrants the death penalty in many Islamic countries. His comments came almost exactly a year after he provoked a wave of anger among Muslims by quoting a Byzantine emperor who linked Islam to violence.” The 80-year-old pontiff made a speech on Friday September 21 near Rome in “defense of religious liberty,” which, he said “is a fundamental, irrepressible, inalienable and inviolable right.” In a clear reference to Islam, he said: “The exercise of this freedom also includes the right to change religion, which should be guaranteed not only legally, but also in daily practice.” Addressing the problem of Islamic extremism, he added: “Terrorism is a serious problem whose perpetrators often claim to act in God's name and harbor an inexcusable contempt for human life.”
China's Catholics Throng to Church
BBC News reports that Beijing's Southern Cathedral has the kind of congregation many Catholic churches in Europe can only dream of attracting. At Sunday morning Mass, the church is overflowing with worshippers. Those that cannot squeeze in sit on benches outside. There are no official ties between China and the Vatican, despite attempts by both sides over recent months to overcome their differences. But that does not seem to matter to the faithful at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church is home to the Newly-appointed Beijing Bishop Father Joseph Li Shan.