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India: fines for saying 'Christian' prayers

Four people have received fines for practising Christianity from a village council in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

One of the men, Shankar Singh, told UCA News that they were fined 5,000 rupees (US$75) each.

The arrests followed accusations by a Hindu group that the people at the gathering were attempting to convert to Christianity.

The state, run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has an anti-conversion law that criminalises conversion if done without the permission of government authorities.

A Christian advocacy group recently said that attacks on Christians were reported on an almost daily basis in 2015.

Burkina Faso: Australian Christian woman freed

Islamic militants have freed an Australian woman who was kidnapped with her husband last month in Burkina Faso, reports the BBC.

Jocelyn Elliott and her husband Ken, a medical doctor, were snatched on 15 Jan. by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from Djibo, near the border with Mali.

The couple, who are in their 80s, were taken on the same day that AQIM killed 29 in the capital, Ouagadougou, including six Canadian Christians doing humanitarian work and a US missionary.

The release of Mrs Elliott into Niger was revealed by the country's president, Issoufou Mahamadou, on 6 Feb.

Mrs Elliott thanked the people of Burkina Faso for their support and said, "I'd lke to be reunited with my husband soon so we can return to Djibo and continue our work there".

Residents of Djibo have been running a social media campaign calling for the release of the couple, who have provided medical services in the town since the 1970s.

Roman, Russian patriarchs to meet in Cuba

The first-ever meeting of the Roman pontiff and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church is scheduled for 12 Feb. in Cuba, both churches have announced.

RT reports that the subject of their conversation will be "persecution of Christians in the modern world".

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is the only patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox churches whom the Roman Pontiff Francis has not yet met. Kirill has planned a visit to Cuba, and Francis will stop there on his way to a planned visit to Mexico.

"The situation in the Middle East, in northern and central Africa and in some other regions where extremists are perpetrating genocide of Christians, requires immediate action and even closer cooperation between Christian churches," Metropolitan Hilarion, foreign relations chief for the Orthodox Church, was quoted by RT as saying.

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