Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 29, 2010

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 29, 2010

In today's edition:

  • Iraq Arrests 12 Suspected in Deadly Church Siege
  • Blasphemy Resolution Passes U.N. Committee
  • Two Church Buildings Torn Down in Zanzibar, Tanzania
  • Lawyers Prevented from Talking with Detained Coptic Christians

Blasphemy Resolution Passes U.N. Committee

A United Nations committee adopted a resolution combating the "vilification of religions" on Nov. 23, but the measure passed with fewer votes than last year. Religion News Service that religious freedom advocates who oppose the measure say support for it continues to diminish. The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to look at the measure in December. The resolution received 76 yes votes, 64 no, and 42 abstentions. "We are disappointed that this pernicious resolution has passed yet again, despite strong evidence that legal measures to restrict speech are both ineffective and a direct violation of freedom of expression," said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. The Organization of the Islamic Conference relabeled the resolution as condemning "vilification of religions" instead of "defamation of religions," but U.S. officials and advocates continued to oppose it.

Two Church Buildings Torn Down in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Suspected radical Islamists demolished two church buildings on the island of Zanzibar on Nov. 21, Compass Direct News reports. Members of the congregations have since received death threats from Muslims. The church buildings belonged to the Tanzania Assemblies of God (TAG) and the Evangelical Assemblies of God Zanzibar (EAGZ) in Masingini village, nearly three miles from Zanzibar city. One Christian who requested anonymity said, "One Muslim was heard saying, ‘We have cleansed our area by destroying the two churches, and now we are on our mission to kill individual members of these two churches - we shall not allow the church to be built again.'" EAGT Pastor Michael Maganga and TAG Pastor Dickson Kaganga said they were fearful about the future of the church in Masingini. Muslim extremists in Zanzibar, in concert with local government officials, have long limited the ability of Christians to obtain land for erecting worship buildings.

Iraq Arrests 12 Suspected in Deadly Church Siege

Iraqi authorities have made their first arrests in one of the deadliest attacks recorded against Iraqi Christians. Christian Today reports that twelve members of the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq, which has claimed responsibility for the Oct. 31 attack, were arrested last week. Militants had stormed the church during mass wearing suicide vests and taking about 120 churchgoers hostage. Nearly 60 people, mainly worshippers, were killed. More were wounded. Extremists have targeted Christians in multiple bombing attacks since then, killing several more Christians. Meanwhile, human rights watchdogs say extremists are focused on eliminating Christianity from Iraq. "I'm using the word religion-cide to explain to people what is really taking place in Iraq right now," said Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA.

Lawyers Prevented from Talking with Detained Coptic Christians

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that hundreds of Copts were involved in Wednesday's protest in Cairo's Giza governorate, which left two dead and at least 60 injured. An estimated 5,000 riot police clashed with hundreds of Coptic Christians, and 156 protesters were detained. Police were allegedly denied entry to the public prosecutor's office to talk to those arrested. Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church UK said, "We completely reject the use of violence. This is not in the nature of Coptic Christians. However, we believe the demonstration could have been policed in a much better manner and that the mishandling of the demonstration by the police force caused it to spiral out of control."