Catching Our Eye

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  • Canadian pastor ‘not heard from’ in North Korea

    The head pastor of a large Canadian church has failed to return from a humanitarian visit to North Korea.

    Reverend Hyeon Soo Lim, 60, had made hundreds of trips to the secretive state where he helped oversee an orphanage, a nursery and a nursing home.

    Speaking on behalf of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church, Toronto, where Lim has been head pastor for 28 years, Lisa Pak said they had not heard from him since January 31.

    Just before his disappearance Lim was invited to North Korea's capital Pyongyang, according to Reverend Chun Ki-Won, a South Korean missionary helping North Korean refugees.

    At first, they thought he might have been subject to a 21-day quarantine period imposed on arriving travellers due to the ebola risk, but that period would now have ended. 

    Several American Christians have been detained by North Korea in recent months.

    Source: Reuters, Daily Telegraph

  • Is ISIS real Islam? Debate continues

    Author Graeme Wood comes under attack for his recent article in The Atlantic, which argued that ISIS is "more than a collection of psychopaths," but a group with a clear set of [Islamic] beliefs.

    In a new article in The Atlantic, Caner K. Dagli takes issue with Wood's implication that Muslims who reject ISIS as un-Islamic are being "hypocritical or naive," and that ISIS follow the texts of Islam as faithfully and seriously as anyone.

    Dagli argues that ISIS justifies its actions by "cherry picking" from the Qur'an or the hadith (further texts about the life of the Prophet Muhammad), and that it makes no effort to fully understand the "complex and nuanced" texts.

    Dagli concludes that articles like Wood's put Muslims in an impossible situation.

    "In my experience," he says, "many Muslims are upset by articles like this not because their feelings are hurt, but because such arguments fill them with dread. They worry about what might happen to a religious or ethnic group that policymakers or the public believe to be intrinsically and uniquely dangerous.

    "Muslims are presented with a brutal logic in which the only way to truly disassociate from ISIS and escape suspicion is to renounce Islam altogether."

  • Abandoned Syrian Christian leaders urge air strike

    A Syrian Christian leader is urging the US to strike IS held positions following the news earlier this week that up to 220 Syrian Christians were kidnapped from Hassaka province.

    “There is a need for immediate action similar to what took place in Kobani,” Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria, told the American Catholic News Service, referring to air strikes that helped the Kurds successfully drive out extremists from the city on the border with Turkey.

    Ishak's appeal was echoed by Hassaka's Catholic Arcbishop Jacques Hindo who expressed a sense of abandonment "into the hands of Daesh [the Arabic name for Islamic State]".

    “We have 100 Assyrian families who have taken refuge in Hassaka, but they have received no assistance either from the Red Crescent or from Syrian government aid workers, perhaps because they are Christians," Hindo added.

    Source: Catholic Herald

  • 'Turkey failed' 100+ Christians abducted by IS

    The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Hassaka-Nisibi has accused Turkey of preventing Christians from fleeing Syria to safety across the Turkish border, two days after Islamic State militants abducted at least 96 people. They lived in a cluster of villages in northeast Syria which had been under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces.

    Bishop Jacques Behnan Hindo told Vatican Radio on Feb. 25 "Every day, families are emigrating from Damascus by plane because of the blockade we have around us," reported Agence France-Presse.

    "In the north, Turkey allows through lorries, Daesh (IS) fighters, oil stolen from Syria, wheat and cotton. All of these can cross the border, but nobody [from the Christian community] can pass over."

    The kidnapped Christians are part of Syria’s 30,000 Assyrian community, concentrated mostly in Hassaka province near the Turkish border. The BBC reports that the Syriac National Council of Syria has put the figure as high as 150, while Afram Yakoub of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden said sources on the ground told him that up to 285 people were missing, including 156 from the village of Tal Shamran and 90 from Tal al-Jazira.

  • Copts aid Egyptians evacuate Libya

    The Coptic Church has set up a "crisis unit" in order to facilitate rapid evacuation and repatriation of Egyptians still present in Libya - starting with those most affected by the fighting.

    Families of the expatriates have been urged to provide information to the Crisis Committee before Feb. 28.

    According to sources consulted by Agenzia Fides, "the Crisis Committee, headed by Anba Raphael secretary of the Holy Synod, is collecting information from families of Copts who emigrated for reasons of work to Libya in view of arranging repatriation in coordination with Egyptian military and civil institutions."

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