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Myanmar's new Speaker represents ethnic minorities

An ethnic Karen Christian has been selected as Speaker - a senior job in Myanmar's Upper House that is seen as a reconciliation effort towards the country's ethnic minorities, says UCA News.

Mahn Win Khaing Than was appointed by pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party that swept to power in Myanmar's first openly contested election for 25 years.

Baptist Khaing Than, one of at least 40 Christians in the new parliament, is a lawyer and politician.

His grandfather was assassinated along with Suu Kyi's own father, who in 1947 negotiated the country’s independence alongside other ethnic leaders. Civil war and ethnic rebellion followed independence, continued by some groups to this day. Among them are ethnic groups who are majority Christian: including the Kachin and the Karen.

Christians are hopeful that under Suu Kyi's ‘leadership’ the new government will address the pressing issues of Myanmar's more than 100 ethnic groups.

"I am very proud of [Khaing Than] and I see that choosing an ethnic minority as Speaker advances the national reconciliation effort by Suu Kyi," Catholic parliamentarian, Mahn Johnny said on Feb. 2.

Iranians await appeal verdict

Four Iranian Christians are awaiting the verdict of an appeal against their one-year jail sentences for spreading Christianity in Iran.

Amin Khaki, Hossein Barounzadeh, Mohammad Bahrami and Rahman Bahmani were sentenced in October 2015. Their appeal was heard on 1 Feb. and the judge is expected to give a ruling soon, reports Middle East Concern.

The four Christians, who are from the self-styled “Church of Iran” network, were first arrested in March 2014 along with four others, during a picnic in the western city of Shush, near the border with Iraq.

After an interrogation, five of them, including Bahrami, were released, but Bahrami was later re-arrested.

Imprisoned Mexican Protestants allowed home

Two Mexican Protestants who were imprisoned and then expelled from their community for refusing to renounce their faith have been allowed to return to their homes with a guarantee of full religious freedom.

Casto Hernández, 31, and his cousin Juan Placido Hernández, 26, of the United Pentecostal Church of Mexico, were imprisoned by officials in Chichiltepec for allegedly celebrating non-Roman Catholic rites in Casto's home. While they were being held, they were put under pressure to renounce their Protestant faith.

Lawyers argued that they were shown religious intolerance, and showed evidence including a 40-minute video of the assembly at which Casto Hernández was pressured to renounce his faith.

Dr. Jorge Lee Galindo of the Mexican religious freedom organisation, Impulso 18, said: "We hope that this case will set a precedent in Mexico and contribute to an overall change in culture, where the law is applied correctly, and religious freedom for all, as protected in our constitution and in the various international treaties to which Mexico is party, is upheld."

Last year, 12 families in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas returned to their homes after five years of exile imposed by village elders and authorities for leaving the ‘traditionalist’ church.

World Watch Monitor has reported too on the pressures faced in places like Mexico, which is in the recent World Watch List 2016 at No. 40 of the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian.

Sources: CSW, ICC

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