Catching Our Eye

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  • Iran jails another 18 converts

    Another 18 Iranian converts to Christianity have been jailed during the past two months for “evangelism and establishing house churches”, reports Mohabat News.

    Between them, their sentences amount to 23 years and nine months in jail.

    Mansour Borji, spokesman for rights group Article 18, told Mohabat News that, although the sentences are final, some of the converts intend to appeal to a higher court.

    “The Islamic regime of Iran treats Christians cruelly, while Iran’s Foreign Minister claims that no one is in jail in Iran for their beliefs,” Borji said. “Despite President [Hassan] Rouhani’s promises in his campaign, not only do we see no relief of suppression of Christians, but we see an increase in the number of arrests and unfair sentences and the security atmosphere imposed by the Islamic regime on the Iranian Christian community still continues.”

    A report in March by Ahmad Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, claimed that, as of 1 January, at least 92 Christians were being detained.

  • Syrian villages 'liberated' from Islamic State

    All the villages along the Khabour River invaded by Islamic State miilitants three months ago have been liberated, according to reports given to the Catholic News Service (CNS).

    “This is very happy news,” Father Emanuel Youkhana, of Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, told CNS.

    But he cautioned Christian villagers from returning home too quickly because of landmines left behind by the militants. “Three Kurdish fighters were killed by [Islamic State] landmines, and a clean-up operation is underway,” Youkhana said.

    Assyrian Christian and Kurdish forces regained control of the towns with the support of US-led coalition airstrikes.

  • A clash of courts in Malaysia

    A constitutional showdown over religion is taking shape in Malaysia, where the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council has asked the courts to decide whether Islamic laws can be held up to the scrutiny of the country's federal constitution.

    At the center of the case is a Christian lawyer, Victoria Jayaseele Martin, who holds a certificate in Sharia (Islamic law) and sued to be able to practice law in Malaysia's Sharia courts in its federal territories -- Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan. She won her case, which is now under appeal.

    On May 14, the Islamic Religious Council announced it would, as part of its legal case, ask the Federal Court to decide a new question: Do the freedoms guaranteed by Malaysia's constitution apply to pronouncements of the country's Islamic courts? The court has set an Aug. 13 date to hear arguments.

    Sources: Malay Mail Online; Malaysian Insider (1) and (2)

  • Pope: Don't forget persecuted Christians

    Pope Francis says people must not forget the “ongoing persecution” of Christians through “habit and indifference”.

    “[Do] not allow habit and indifference to take place before the persistence of such murderous brutality, disguised as religion,” he said at a bishop’s conference in Rome on 19 May.

    “Turning off the spotlight and keeping quiet, allowing the carnage to continue, would mean becoming accomplice[s], guilty before the court of God and history. It would be further proof of the bad conscience of the powerful.”

    Source: Fides

  • Businessman building Pakistan's largest cross

    A Pakistani businessman is building the tallest cross in the country hoping it will be an inspiration to his country's approximately three per cent Christian minority.

    Parvez Henry Gill, 58, has spent a year building one of the world's largest crosses at the entrance to a Christian cemetery in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. At 14 stories high it is nearly complete.

    “I want people to see it and decide to stay here,” said Gill, who says that "every few weeks" he hears about Christians planning to move out of Karachi because of threats.

    Some Christians worry that such a massive symbol of their faith will make the cemetery and their community even more vulnerable. Anwar Sardar, the general secretary of the Karachi Christian Cemeteries Board, which gave Gill permission to build the cross on its land, said "security threats are everywhere and anything could happen in this city".

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