Catching Our Eye

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  • Iraq Patriarch to Shia clerics: ‘update discourse

    Published: July 28, 2016

    A high-ranking Iraqi Catholic leader has urged visiting Shia religious figures to stress more "equality and rights", reports said.

    During a visit by representatives of major Shiite institutions in both Iraq and Iran, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako Raphael outlined the experience of Christians, urging the language of religious preaching be "updated".

    "With friendly frankness I told the Shiites that there can be no future unless the language of religious preaching is updated," Agenzia Fides on 26 July quoted Sako.

    "Preaching and dialogue must […] take into consideration real difficulties. We can begin to discuss justice and recognition of human rights," said Sako to visitors from both Najjaf and Qom, two prominent Shia centres in Iraq and Iran respectively.

    Last December, Sako highlighted examples of intimidation faced by Christians in Shia-majority Iraq.

    "To again see their freedom threatened is very worrying for Christians," French newspaper Le Figaro quoted him as saying after posters appeared urging Christian women to cover up.

    In Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq, Christians have had to flee, including in places where historically Christianity predominated. Christians have fared relatively better in Shia areas, albeit by a limited margin.

    Two-thirds of the country’s Christians fled since the US-led invasion. From above 6% of the population, about 1.5 million, in 2003, current estimates are that barely 0.8% (200,000) still remain.

  • UN condemns 'barbaric' Boko Haram

    Published: July 28, 2016

    The United Nations has accused the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram of "almost unimaginable" violence and brutality in Nigeria.

    Stephen O'Brien, its global humanitarian co-ordinator, said the militant group's actions had forced millions to flee, and that more than nine million people in the Lake Chad region need humanitarian assistance.

    He told the Security Council that Nigeria, bearing "the brunt of the crisis", accounts for seven of the nine million people in need.

    He said Boko Haram's "heinous, barbaric and unconscionable" violence had led to serious human rights violations in the country.

    "From January to June 2016, more than 50 children have been coerced to carry out suicide bombings across the four countries [Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon]" he said.

    The seven year rebellion by the Islamist group has left 20,000 people dead and 2.8 million displaced. UNICEF warned last week that almost 250,000 children in parts of Nigeria's Borno state, formerly controlled by Boko Haram, suffer from severe malnutrition.Other neighbouring states like Adamawa and Yobe are also affected.

    However, Christians – who’ve paid a heavy price in the violence – “face discrimination in Internal Displacement camps”, Fr Maurice Kweirang, in charge of St. Theresa Church’s IDP camp in Yola, in Adamawa told WWM. He also told us that local corruption means aid is not reaching those in need.

    Source: IBT

  • China to shut churches during G20

    Published: July 28, 2016

    House churches in a part of Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province, have been told to close down when the city hosts China’s first-ever G20 summit, reports The Guardian.

    The coastal province, known as the ‘Jerusalem’ of the east as many of China’s estimated 70-80 million Christians are there, is where Communist government officials have pulled down over 1,200 crosses from churches since 2013.

    Now the authorities have reportedly outlawed large-scale religious activity in the local area until four days after the 4-5 September event to “create a safe environment for the meeting”.

    Zhang Mingxuan, president of China’s House Church Alliance, said of the authorities: “They have been forcing house churches not to meet ahead of the G20 summit”.

    Li Guisheng, a Christian human rights lawyer, criticised the move and said it had no basis in Chinese law: “I cannot understand why they have done this… Worshipping God has nothing to do with the G20 summit.”

    On Friday, a UK Foreign Office report on the deteriorating human rights situation in China highlighted the plight of the Christian community.

    The report pointed to the destruction of a large number of churches, the disappearance of Catholic priests and the detention of Protestant pastors and their parishioners.

    Chinese house churches are facing a period of “sustained pressure” from Beijing, the UK Foreign Office said.

  • More UK Muslim refugees convert to Christianity

    Published: July 25, 2016

    A church in the UK with a growing congregation of Muslim refugees seeking conversion to Christianity is a "microcosm of what is happening across churches in Europe" says The Guardian.
    Muslim refugees across western Europe are “converting in ever greater numbers and for a complex array of reasons” – because of persecution back home, they hope it might help asylum claims, but also because many just seek community and spiritual relief after fleeing conflict. Some go to church for food and shelter after being turned away by mosques.

    Rev Sally Smith of St Mark’s Anglican church in Stoke, a city in the UK’s Midlands, says that it is possible that people can swap one set of religious beliefs for another. “With the mass movement from across the world we have got people of faith coming into a secular society [in the UK] and faith really matters to them,” she says. “And they are not too bothered …how that faith is expressed.”

    Mohammad Eghtedarian, who became a Christian after fleeing Iran, and is now ordained as a minister in the Church of England said he doesn’t judge a Muslim’s motives for converting to Christianity and attending church. “The only thing I can do,” he says, “is see if people are still there a year later – and often they are.”

  • Christian refugees in Europe still suffering

    Published: July 25, 2016

    Public Radio International, one of the US’s major producers and distributors of public radio programming, has interviewed Christians in German refugee centres - fleeing extremist violence in Iraq and Syria – who’ve reported intimidation from other refugees.

    Their programme built on research by Christian charity, Open Doors Germany, which interviewed 200 Christian migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan earlier this year. It found that 88 per cent reported being targeted by other migrants because of their religion. Most faced insults and physical attacks and some even death threats. 

    One Christian refugee, Tarek Bakhous, told PRI he was the only Christian put in a house of nine devout Muslims; they then told him he should leave because he didn't share their views on drinking alcohol.

    Another, Wassim Awad, also placed in a mostly Muslim house, overheard some of his housemates boasting that they weren't fleeing persecution, but were in Europe to spread political Islam. When he told the police what he'd overheard he was told "It's Germany. They have a right to free speech. There's nothing we can do".

    Christians living in the migrant camps of northern France have reported similar harassment and violence from Muslims with extremist views who were also living in the camp.

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