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Catching Our Eye

Calls for Christian asylum centres in Sweden

Increasing reports about Christians harassed by hardline Muslim fellow migrants are prompting calls for non-Muslim asylum centres to be set up in Sweden.

According to the Swedish Evangelical Alliance, one Christian refugee in Kalmar in the southeast of the country was threatened with having his throat slit by a man who claimed to have fought with jihadists in Syria.

A Pakistani Christian couple moved into a church when the husband's name was sprayed on a wall near their room calling for his death, while, according to an article by Christian Today, two women were told by other asylum seekers to convert to Islam and cover their heads, their children being called "kuffar" or "infidels."

It's mostly Christians, atheists, Druze and moderate Muslims who are being discriminated against by Islamic radicals, says Nuri Kino, an Assyrian activist in Sweden.

In a letter dated March 14, the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Ignatuis Aphrem II urged Swedish authorities to intervene.

"Christians do not live in refugee camps in the Middle East, because, there too, they are persecuted by Muslim extremists," he said, calling for a distinct asylum accommodation for Christians and other minority asylum seekers.

"It is obvious that we are not able to protect them at the existing accommodations," Kino echoed the Patriarch’s concern. "We cannot live on with the romantic idea of a harmonious mosaic of religions and ethnicity in our accommodations for asylum seekers. That time is past."

The issue goes beyond Sweden. Earlier this year global Christian advocate Open Doors reported a spate of incidents in northern France involving Iranian Christian converts being persecuted by Iraqi Muslims.

In Germany, The Archbishop of Cologne has warned that Christian refugees were being threatened by other asylum seekers in refugee camps, reported the Catholic international weekly The Tablet in February.

Myanmar monk builds pagoda on church grounds

A Myanmar Christian leader appealed for calm Wednesday after an influential Buddhist monk built pagodas within the compound of a church in a country beset with religious tensions, reports News Republic.

Supporters of the monk Myaing Kyee Ngu erected a religious statue and planted a Buddhist flag on a church's grounds in the eastern state of Karen, and then returned on Saturday to erect a pagoda, according to local Anglican Bishop Saw Stylo. 

It is not clear what is behind the recent pagoda construction in Karen state, which has a sizeable Christian population. Christian communities in ethnic minority areas have for years complained of encroachments by zealous Buddhists, particularly through the presence of the military.

The office of local MP Saw Chit Khin said that Buddhist authorities had already written to the monk to urge him to cease building.

Aleppo Christian areas shelled, scores casualties

Despite a fragile truce helped by both US and Russian efforts, at least 19 people have been killed and scores injured this week in continued shelling in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

Coinciding with the 101st anniversary of the Turkish genocide of Armenians and other Christians, areas of notable Christian presence in the city came under attack starting Monday (April 25).

Seventeen Armenians including 3 children and a woman were killed when, according to Asia News, “Islamic terrorists launched a series of heavy bomb attacks from areas not under government control” on districts of Aleppo, including Suleymaniye and Ashrafieh.

Corroborating the reports, The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) said Christian and Kurdish neighbourhoods have come under attack and a number of children have been killed.

"Turkish forces fighting together with the so-called opposition have been fighting the regime's army for a couple of days now,” said Nuri Kino, an Assyrian activist and founder of Demand for Action (ADFA).

“But what people could not see coming was the attacks against Christian neighbourhoods," he said, confirming that Kurdish and Christian children were killed in the fighting.

AINA quoted another Assyrian currently in Aleppo as saying: "We were praying that we could get some rest from the war, that it is over! Just weeks ago we started to get normal life back. Now, we have lost all hope, we just want out of here. There is no one to protect us.”

There is confusion about the exact number of casualties, presumably climbing due to continued hostilities.

Elsewhere in the city, at least another 14 people were killed Thursday in an air strike on a hospital, with local sources blaming Syrian or Russian war planes, although the Syrian military has denied targeting the hospital.

According to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 60 civilians, including women and children, have been killed in airstrikes targeting areas controlled by factions in the eastern neighbourhoods of the city, as well as in shelling by the rebel and Islamic factions on regime forces’ controlled areas in the western neighbourhoods of Aleppo – where Christians can be found.

The Syrian Observatory talked of cross shelling in general, but did not mention any Christians when speaking about targeted areas under regime control.

Reports also spoke of sniper attacks and extensive damage to properties.

The official Syrian news agency SANA listed the areas targeted as Aazamiya, Masharfeh, Suleymaniye, Muhafaza, Jameeliya, Azeeziya, Bab al-Faraj and Suleiman al-Halabi, citing continued hostilities.

The squeezing of the remaining Christians by shelling and other pressures have raised the temper among the areas’ inhabitants against both the Assad regime and Turkey, as well as against the Islamic jihadists whom the latter is accused of supporting.

"Enough! Do something that goes beyond the words of support and promises to defend the Christians! Turkey is continuing the genocide of our people here in Aleppo!” Asia News quoted an angry Christian saying.

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