Bethlehem, DeLay, Nigeria & Bombing in Colombia

Bethlehem, DeLay, Nigeria & Bombing in Colombia

In Today's Edition:
  • Bethlehem Church Conflict Could Be Winding Down
  • Rebels Bomb Church in Colombia, Killing Almost 100
  • DeLay Recognized as Distinguished Christian Statesman 
  • Shari'ah Law Spreading to Southwest Nigeria
  • Other Headlines at a Glance

Bethlehem Church Conflict Could Be Winding Down ... According to Ha'Aretz and other news organizations, a deal to end the 5-week-old standoff at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is close at hand. At midday Monday, Israel Radio quoted senior Fatah activist Ibrahim Abayat as saying that a solution to the standoff would be achieved "within hours." But discussions appear to be stalled over the issue of exiling accused Palestinian terrorists to either Italy or the Gaza Strip.

CNN reported that sources familiar with the talks said Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was "adamantly opposed" to exiling more than six "senior terrorists" to a European country, most likely, Italy. But an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Italy could not make an offer of refuge before a "firm" agreement is reached, according to the Jerusalem Post. The Palestinians want no more than eight of those in the church sent into exile in Italy, while Israel reportedly insists that at least a dozen be deported, The Associated Press reported.

The Church of Nativity standoff began April 2, when more than 200 Palestinians, including several dozen gunmen, fled into the church ahead of invading Israeli forces. Several dozen members of the clergy, including Franciscan monks, are also inside.

Rebels Bomb Church in Colombia, Killing Almost 100 ... At least 98 people have been killed and about 100 injured in northwest Colombia after guerillas fired a mortar bomb at a church in which they were seeking refuge, according to AP, The Australian Sunday Times and Reuters. Leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been fighting right-wing paramilitaries of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, around the town of Bojoya. When the battle moved out of the jungle and into the town, Mayor Ariel Palacio moved citizens into what he thought was a safe place - the church.

Witnesses then saw the guerillas drop a mortar bomb on the church. Local government secretary Jorge Caicedo said the 98 killed were all civilians. AP reports that 38 were children. Caicedo called the events in Bojaya a "national tragedy."

Colombian president Andres Pastrana has asked the European Union to reconsider its decision not to include guerillas from the FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN) on its list of terrorist groups. Both groups are reportedly listed on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

DeLay Recognized as Distinguished Christian Statesman ...  On May 15, Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas is to be recognized as a Distinguished Christian Statesman by a Capitol Hill ministry for his example of living out his faith in public service. The D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship (CCS) plans to bestow its highest honor on Rep. DeLay to recognize his "character, integrity, and willingness to heed God's call." On hand to present the award personally will be Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder of the Center that bears his name.

"We are pleased to confer our Distinguished Christian Statesman award this year to Congressman DeLay because he stands for truth and righteousness in government," said CCS Executive Director Dr. Frank Wright. "Through the example of Christian statesmen like Tom DeLay, it is our hope that Christian statesmanship will once again become the goal of public service."

Past recipients of the Distinguished Christian Statesman award include: Attorney General John Ashcroft (1996), Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (1997), former Senator and current Ambassador to Germany Dan Coats (1998), House Majority Leader Dick Armey (1999), Senator Sam Brownback (2000), and Congressman J.C. Watts (2001).

Shari'ah Law Spreading to Southwest Nigeria ...  Attempts are underway to implement Islamic Shari'ah law among the Muslim community in the state of Oyo in the southwest of Nigeria, according to the Barnabas Fund. This is the first occasion on which the adoption of full Shari'ah law has been proposed in the majority-Christian south of Nigeria. Following the refusal of the Oyo state government to implement Shari'ah law officially, Muslim groups announced on April 30 that they would adopt Shari'ah law on a civil basis.

Tensions provoked by the adoption of full Shari'ah law in 12 states in Northern Nigerian led to riots which killed 1,200 people in Kaduna State in February and May 2000, reported the Barnabas Fund. Similar violence in Jos in September 2001 led to the deaths of some 500 people, while another 200 were killed in riots in Kano in October 2001.

Many fear that Christians living in areas where Shari'ah law is enforced could find themselves victimized, even though it is not supposed to apply to them. This has happened in several of the Northern Nigerian Shari'ah states where Christian, as well as Muslim, men and women have been segregated on public transport; Islamic vigilantes are enforcing Shari'ah dress codes on Muslims and Christians alike; and churches have been intimidated and closed. In particular, according to Barnabas Fund, there is serious concern that Muslim converts to Christianity could face the death penalty, as required by Shari'ah law.

Other Headlines at a Glance: