Catching Our Eye
Eritrean priest nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
An Eritrean priest who has helped to save the lives of hundreds of refugees has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Father Mussie Zerai, who lives in Switzerland, has received hundreds of emergency phone calls from refugees. (His number is written on the wall of a Libyan detention centre.) After receiving the calls, he alerts Italian and Maltese coast guards.
During an interview with the BBC, he urged politicians to find a solution to the “root of the problem”.
“Why [do] these people escape from [their] origin country – because [of] war, because [of] dictator[s], because [of a] lack of justice, freedom and democracy,” he said.
Zerai said that refugees should be “protected from traffickers” and looked after in neighbouring countries until they can be safely resettled.
World Watch Monitor spoke with him in 2013, after a boat of predominantly Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees caught fire, killing at least 232 migrants.
“I look at the list of the survivors and 90 per cent is Christian,” he said. “They are coming from Eritrea and Ethiopia. The situation is very bad because politically in Eritrea there is a dictator and they live without any type of freedom or democracy. Many Christians are persecuted because of their faith. It’s not easy for them to live in Eritrea at this moment.”
SE Asia rights groups sign religion charter
Almost 70 religious and human rights groups met with UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, last week for a conference committed to improving religious freedoms in Southeast Asia.
The two-day event - the first of its kind - was co-organised by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the International Commission of Jurists, and Boat People SOS.
Bielefeldt told delegates that “the politicisation of religion undermines freedom of religion or belief, not only to the detriment of minorities, but also of followers of majority religions who do not wish to see their faith be turned into a tool of political power gambling.
"We need more cooperation across boundaries, including between faith-based and secular organisations," he added.
Participants committed to a freedom of religion charter based on the New York Resolution, which was signed at September's 70th UN General Assembly by parliamentarians from almost 50 countries.
Police arrest man over Bangladesh pastor attack
Police have arrested Obaidul Islam, 28, in connection with the attack yesterday on Luke Sarkar, a Bangladeshi pastor, reports The Daily Star. An attempt was made to cut the 50-year-old's throat, but he escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.
Islam is an active member of Shibir (the student wing of the illegal militant Jamaat organisation), the police stated.
Pastor Sarkar of the Faith Bible Church of God told bdnews24 that two weeks ago two youths had phoned him to say they were interested in hearing his sermons. Yesterday three youths arrived by motorcycle at his home in Pabna, a town in the north-western part of the country, unannounced, and carried out the attack.
“The three sat on the drawing room for a while. Then they suddenly attacked me and tried to slit my throat with a knife,” Sarkar said.
The attack comes a week after an Italian aid worker was shot and killed in the capital Dhaka, when three men rode by him on a motorcycle. On Friday 2nd October, a Japanese businessman, Kunio Hoshi (66), was shot dead in Rangpur, over 200 miles north of Dhaka, again by men on a motorcycle. A group claiming to be Islamic State claimed both deaths, and warned of continuing 'security operations against nationals of crusader coalition countries'.