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World News

World in Brief

  • Algeria: turning to Christ

    Bible Society’s Newswatch (The Tablet)

    Due to their disillusionment with the Arab Spring and the rise of violent Islam, thousands of Muslims in Algeria are requesting Bibles and becoming Christians, it was reported in May.

    Ali Khidri, executive secretary for the Bible Society in Algeria, said that ‘hundreds’ of people every month were turning up at his office in Algiers requesting a Bible, and that many more were going to churches to enquire about the Christian faith. According to Bible Society in Algeria, there are between 100,000 and 200,000 Christians in Algeria – an increase from just 2,000 30 years ago.

  • Burma: sentenced

    Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

    On 2 June, Htin Lin Oo, the former information officer of the National League for Democracy (NLD), was given a two-year prison sentence following his conviction on charges of insulting religion.

    Htin Lin Oo was charged after a speech he made on 23 October 2014 criticising Buddhist extremists for inciting hatred and violence. A Buddhist himself, he argued that the extremist Buddhist nationalists’ behaviour was contrary to the teachings of Buddhism, but was charged with insulting Buddhism as a result.

  • Crimea: fined

    F18 News (www.forum18.org)

    Seven of nine Baptists, who conducted an outdoor religious meeting in a village in central Crimea, were fined in May. while an eighth is due in court on 15 June.

    All rejected police and court insistence that their event required prior notification under Russia’s Demonstrations Law. ‘This event did not disturb public order and did not threaten the safety of the participants themselves or of other citizens’, church members insisted.

  • Cuba: turned down


    The latest request of a church in Holguin to construct a larger building to support its congregation was turned down in May.

    In 1992, during a time of eased religious restrictions, Maranatha First Baptist Church was granted permission to erect a building in the city’s centre. It has since attracted hundreds of Cubans to its services each Sunday, and planted several house churches and missions. The congregation has outgrown its building, but received an official rejection to the scheme to construct a new building in early May. Additionally, the government is seizing the property from the church and ordering it to pay rent.

  • Cuba: still fighting


    A Request for Precautionary Measures was filed on 20 May with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission on behalf of the Revd Yiorvis Bravo Denis and members of the Apostolic Movement, whose property has been arbitrarily confiscated by the Cuban government.

    The members of the Apostolic Movement, a religious network that the Cuban authorities have refused to register, continue to be the subject of intimidation and harassment by the Cuban government.

  • Egypt: illegally held

    Morning Star News

    Imprisoned by Egyptian authorities on trumped-up charges for photographing Muslim attacks on Christians, and then held illegally after his sentence was complete, Bishoy Armia Boulous (formerly known as Mohammed Hegazy) is beaten several times a week, his solicitor Karam Ghobriel said in May.

    Boulous remains in Tora Prison, despite completion of a one-year sentence that should have ended in December for a charge of spreading false information meant to ‘cause harm or damage to the public interest’ of Egypt.

  • EU: less freedom

    World Watch Monitor

    According to a report by the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance, launched on 3 June, not enough is being done by European institutions around Article 18 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    ‘Unfortunately, we can only conclude that violations of freedom of religion or belief have become more frequent and intense’, said Member of the EU Parliament (MEP) Dennis de Jong, co-author of the report and co-president of the Intergroup, speaking at the launch in Brussels.

  • Iran: 18 sentenced

    Mohabat News

    The Revolutionary Courts in Esfahan, Rasht, Tonekabon, and Karaj have sentenced 18 Christian converts to 23 years and nine months in total over the past two months, it was reported in May.

    The sentences have been confirmed in an appeals court and are final. Although Iran’s Islamic regime does everything in its power to impose and promote Shi’ite Islam as the state religion, to pressure religious minorities and punish conversion out of Islam with capital punishment, the trend among Iranian Shi’ite Muslims to convert to other religions, especially Christianity, is ever increasing.

  • Iraq: fearful

    Barnabas Fund

    Christians in Baghdad are fearful since Islamic State (IS) militants captured the geographically strategic city of Ramadi on 17 May.

    With Ramadi just 60 miles west of Baghdad, Christians in the capital city are wondering where to flee. Around 25,000 Iraqis fled Ramadi, heading towards Baghdad. In pursuit of those fleeing, IS continues to advance towards Baghdad. Aid workers are concerned about government blocks set up to prevent the displaced Iraqis from entering the city. They have been set up because it is feared that there are militants among the refugees.

  • Libya: abuse

    World Watch Monitor

    Migrants and refugees in Libya are increasingly facing widespread abuse and persecution on religious grounds, according to a report by Amnesty International published on 11 May.

    Foreign nationals travelling irregularly to and from Libya face abuses at all stages of the smuggling routes running from West and East Africa toward the Libyan coast. Christian migrants and refugees from Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt are particularly targeted.

  • Nigeria: killings

    Morning Star News

    Gunmen killed a church pastor and more than 70 other Christians in Plateau State over the past month, it was reported in mid-May.

    Setting fire to church buildings and houses in attacks that continued later in the month, Fulani Muslim herdsmen on 2 May killed the Revd Luka Gwom of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) in the town of Foron, Barkin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA). Church leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute a war ‘by Islam to eliminate Christianity’ in Nigeria.

  • Sudan: evidence needed

    Morning Star News

    A court hearing in Khartoum on 31 May for two South Sudanese pastors facing the death penalty was extended to 1 June and then adjourned until 15 June.

    Prosecutors need more time to search for evidence in the trial of the Revd Yat Michael and the Revd Peter Yein Reith, a defence lawyer said. After encouraging a north Khartoum church embroiled in a land dispute with the government, the two South Sudanese pastors were charged with undermining Sudan’s constitutional system and spying – offences punishable by death or life imprisonment – and with waging war against the state, which calls for the death penalty.

  • Sudan: aid blocked

    Bible Society’s Newswatch (Premier)

    Jolly Kemigabo, Christian Aid country manager in South Sudan, said in early June: ‘The situation here is now critical. The fighting is directly affecting certain areas in the north, but it is also having an impact

    throughout the country.’

    Predictions from the United Nations suggest the fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people and blocked humanitarian aid deliveries for some 650,000 people.

  • USA: Bill approved

    Religion Today

    A Bill that would ban abortions from being performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy was approved by the House of Representatives on 14 May by 242 votes to 184.

    The bill, formally called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was written to protect babies that can feel the pain of an abortion in the womb. However, the pro-life Bill will probably never become law. The Obama administration has already stated its opposition to the legislation, and urged the President to veto the Bill.

  • USA: convicted

    Religion Today

    A US marine was court-martialled and discharged from the military for displaying a piece of paper with Scripture on it at her work computer, it was reported in May.

    Monifa Sterling had posted the Old Testament quote, ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper’, on her computer. When a superior asked her to remove it, the lance corporal refused. Sterling was court-martialled on 1 February 2014 and convicted. Her rank was lowered to private and she is now unemployed. The Liberty Institute is now representing Sterling for an appeal.

  • World: eight added

    All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief

    The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2015 Annual Report in April.

    This report, the 16th since the commission’s creation in 1998, documents religious freedom violations in 33 countries, makes country-specific recommendations, and assesses the US Government’s implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). USCIRF recommends that the State Department add eight more nations to its list of ‘countries of particular concern’, where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are perpetrated or tolerated: Central African Republic (first time recommendation), Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Vietnam.