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Newsdesk - 20 July 2017

19 July 2017


SYRIA – The war is not over in Aleppo

Barnabas Fund received the following letter last week from one of our Project Partners in Syria, that gives an insight into the current situation in Aleppo.

“On this Saturday, July 9th 2017, it is very hot in Aleppo. In the street that runs alongside our place, cars are passing as regularly as before … There is always a before, a comparison, a return back to read the reality of our life, the reality of the events that we go through, the reality of the city’s demography, the reality of the industry, the reality of the essential services such as water and electricity, the reality of the security.

“A lot of young people lost their friends, killed during the war or who left the country for good … Several industrials or small business owners are looking for workers to revive their projects and they are confronted with the lack of skilled manpower … The high cost of living, the rising prices and the decline in the purchasing power mean that [we] continue to support the families through a regular monthly distribution of food and hygiene baskets … many voices are calling for the distribution of the food baskets to stop, to force people to normalize their lives. But we realize that the misery is greater and the basic needs are immense: A rent for those who don’t own homes, a water tank, clothes, shoes, a little bit of meat, water and tuition for school and college students, milk for the infants etc.

“Is the war over? Not at all. One must be realistic. If the city of Aleppo is not bombed, that does not mean that the war is over in Syria or in Aleppo. There are still surrounding neighbourhoods of the city that are daily bombarded by armed groups. There are still major local, regional and international threats. As we did during the past years, we remain hopeful that diplomatic efforts and change in positions of certain world power will help bring peace to our beloved Syria.”

From Barnabas Fund Project Partners



SOUTH AFRICA – Commission recommends compulsory registration of all "religious practitioners"

A government commission in South Africa has recommended that it be made compulsory for all “religious practitioners” to register with the state. The chairperson of the investigation into the “Commercialisation of Religion and Abuse of People’s Belief Systems” stated that being a religious leader was an occupation that should be regulated by law, adding, “We are convinced the majority of reasonable religious leaders will agree with us”. The Commission has also proposed reviewing religious organisations to assess “governance, ethics and acceptable religious practices”, which would effectively amount to having the power to evaluate church doctrine.

While the Commission’s aims appear to be well founded and intended to provide greater scrutiny of cult-like religious organisations, their primary recommendation is deeply concerning as it would severely restrict religious liberty in South Africa. Critics have asserted that authorities simply need to enforce existing criminal and health and safety law more rigorously.

From Times Live here



INDIA – Punjab pastor shot dead in front of church building

Punjab pastor Sultan Masih was shot and killed on 15 July, in front of the church building where his congregation meet. The 53-year-old father of three was shot repeatedly at point-blank range by a man on a motorcycle. The church Sultan Masih pastored is the largest in the area.

For the last two months, Christians in Punjab have witnessed a rise in anti-Christian propaganda on social media, reportedly instigated by members of the Buddha Dal, a Sikh sect; several pastors, including Sultan Masih, received threats. The Buddha Dal has denied any involvement in the pastor’s murder, but some local Christians believe Sultan Masih was deliberately targeted. His eldest son told Global Christian News, "our church was established in 1989 and in the 30 years of my father’s Christian ministry, we have had a very cordial relationship with all the other faith communities".

From Global Christian News here



CUBA – Pastor sentenced to correctional labour for wanting children to have Christian education

A Cuban church pastor has been prosecuted for home-schooling his children so that they could receive a Christian education. Pastor Ramon Rigal from Guantanamo, Cuba, has been sentenced to one year of correctional labour and house arrest. At his trial, which lasted only three hours, the prosecutor asserted that home-schooling “is not allowed in Cuba because it has a capitalist base” and that only government-trained teachers can “impart socialist values”. Pastor Ramon's children have been ordered to start at a government school in September.

Christian schools are not permitted in the avowedly communist Caribbean island of Cuba. Authorities strictly regulate religious activities and, under the Cuban constitution, the maintenance of socialism and communism take precedence over religious liberty.

From Diario de Cuba [Sp] here



EGYPT – Christian women targets of abduction and acid attacks

Suzan Ashraf Rawy is still missing, one month after the 22-year-old Christian disappeared while walking to the church where she works in Al Khosous, just outside of Cairo. According to a Christian News Agency, the Christian community in Al Khosous fears she has been kidnapped, along with two other young women who disappeared from the same town a few days before Suzan. Several women have also been targeted in acid attacks – supposedly because they were not adhering to strict Islamic dress. The spate of violence against Christian women reportedly followed the accidental fatal shooting of a Muslim, for which a Christian man was arrested and charged with manslaughter.

One Christian from Al Khosous told journalists that Christian women "are now too frightened to leave their houses".

From BosNewsLife here



ALGERIA – Christian jailed for Facebook “blasphemy” has sentence reduced

Slimane Bouhafs, an Algerian Christian convert, who was jailed for three years for “blasphemy” in 2016, has received a partial presidential pardon. In July 2016, Bouhafs posted on Facebook that, “Jesus overcomes the lies of Islam”, an expression of faith which led to his imprisonment for “offending the Prophet [Muhammad]” and “denigrating the creed and precepts of Islam”. Since his incarceration, he has been assaulted and abused by fellow prisoners and his family has expressed serious concerns about his health.

From Lavoixdalgerie.com [Fr] here