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Catching Our Eye

Repression of Maldives Christians to intensify

The President of the Maldives has vowed to enact a national programme to “promote Islamic unity and foster religious and national spirit”.

President Abdulla Yameen, speaking earlier this week at this year’s official opening of parliament, said the programme would begin within three months.

The Maldivian legal system has been increasingly aligned with a hardline interpretation of Sharia since Yameen, who has employed the language of Islam in re-orienting Maldivian foreign policy away from a pro-Western stance, took power in 2013.

The archipelago is home to several thousand “underground” Christians, who are prohibited from meeting for worship, building churches or owning a Bible. It is ranked 13th on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

Source: Maldives Independent

IS to cast long shadow over Iraqi civilians

Violence and deep division will continue to imperil Iraqi civilians long after Islamic State (IS) is driven out from the territory it captured, according to a lengthy dispatch from the devastated Iraqi city of Fallujah.

After The Caliphate, published on BuzzFeed, quotes a senior official in Fallujah, Taleb al-Hosnawi, warning that IS is “trying to set up sleeper cells”.

Within Iraq’s vast western Anbar Province, a bitter divide has emerged “between those who fought ISIS and those who accommodated them”, writes Borzou Daragahi.

He says that unofficial (“kangaroo”) courts “administer harsh and speedy justice” and that the state is too “overwhelmed and cash-strapped” to start the rebuilding of Iraq’s bombed-out cities.

A local tribal sheikh adds that reviving the northern city of Mosul, to where many of the thousands of expelled Christians are wanting to return, could be made more difficult by its former mix of ethnicities and faiths.

Thai Buddhist calls for action against nationalism

A Thai Buddhist has called for Buddhist-majority countries like Thailand to halt the rise of nationalism, intolerance and hate speech.

“It’s very dangerous, much more dangerous than weapons,” said Sulak Sivaraksa during a recent panel discussion on the Channel NewsAsia programme Between The Lines.

As World Watch Monitor reported in October, Buddhism, universally recognised as a “peaceful religion”, is increasingly becoming associated with violent nationalism.

As Channel NewsAsia reports, Bodu Bala Sena has been responsible for “hundreds of attacks against Muslims and Christians” in Sri Lanka, “in the name of protecting the country’s Buddhist culture”, while in Myanmar, “hardline monks of the ultra-nationalist Ma Ba Tha group have been fuelling sentiment against the Muslim Rohingya”.

Religiously motivated nationalism was among the most prevalent trends in the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is hardest to live as a Christian.