South African president announces free higher education for poor and working-class students
- The change affects students from households making up to 350,000 South African rand (~USD26,715) enrolled in the country’s TVET (Technical Vocational Educational and Training) colleges.
- President Jacob Zuma has pledged to implement the shift from loan- to grant-based subsidies in a “fiscally responsible manner,” with aid to higher education institutions set to increase from 0.7% to 1% of GDP over the next five years.
- Critics continued to question the financing for such a sweeping initiative, with the finance minister indicating details will be deferred to the 2018 budget unveiling in February.
“Zuma announces free higher education for poor and working class students” (News24 | December 2017)
“Gigaba: How government will fund free education to be clarified at 2018 budget” (The Mail & Guardian | December 2017)
“Zuma says South Africa’s free higher education to be done in a fiscally sustainable manner” (Reuters | December 2017)
Reporters arrested in Myanmar following Rohingya coverage
- Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested on the outskirts of Yangon after working on stories related to the military crackdown on the Rohingya community in Rakhine state.
- The Ministry of Information said the reporters faced charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for having “illegally acquired information” for dissemination to foreign media.
- The event has prompted international condemnation, including by the United Nations, foreign governments, international journalism organizations, and press freedom advocates.
“Factbox: International reaction to arrest of Reuters reporters in Myanmar” (Reuters | December 2017)
“Analysis: Government Turning Back the Clock on Press Freedom” (The Irrawaddy | December 2017)
“UN chief calls on Myanmar to release Reuters journalists” (CNN | December 2017)
Danish journalists wounded in knife attack in Gabon capital
- Two Danish reporters for National Geographic were wounded after a Nigerien national living in Gabon attacked them with a knife in Libreville.
- The attacker told police the assault was in retribution for the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, although it was unclear if the Danes were mistaken for Americans.
- The attack was reportedly the first of its kind in Gabon, a Christian-majority country with peaceful interfaith relations.
“2 Danish journalists violently attacked in Gabon” (The Associated Press | December 2017)
“Two Danish journalists wounded in Islamist knife attack in Gabon” (Reuters | December 2017)
“Two Danish journalists wounded in Gabon knife attack” (AFP, via France 24 | December 2017)
Christians celebrate opening of Christmas market in Algiers
- Catholic international organization Caritas organized the market, which has seen contributions from Christians and Muslims alike as a result of increased advertisement in its second year.
- Algeria’s population is 99% Sunni Muslim but has seen an increase in its Christian minority as a result of the international diplomatic community and influx of sub-Saharan migrants from countries like Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
- Because proselytizing is legally forbidden, Algerian Christian organizations focus on social services in local communities as well as cultural exchange between the country’s Christian and Muslim communities.
“Christmas market opens in Algerian capital” (Reuters | December 2017)
“« Chrétiens d’Algérie », ils témoignent sans prosélytisme” (La Croix | October 2017, in French)
“Dans ‘Chrétiens d’Algérie-Sur les chemins de la rencontre’, Jean Dulon dévoile une ‘Algérie proche et fraternelle’” (The Huffington Post Maghreb | March 2017, in French)
Suicide bombers kill 9 in attack on church in southwestern Pakistan
- At least 9 were killed and 56 wounded following an attack by two suicide bombers on Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province.
- Nearly 400 had been in attendance for the pre-Christmas service, and authorities say the toll could have been much higher had the attackers reached the sanctuary.
- The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, a part of ongoing targeting of the 2 million Pakistani Christians in the country by both IS and the Pakistani Taliban.
“9 killed in suicide attack on Quetta’s Bethel Memorial Methodist Church” (Dawn.com | December 2017)
“Nine killed in terrorist attack on church in Quetta” (Geo News | December 2017)
“Suicide bombers attack church in Pakistan’s Quetta before Christmas, killing nine” (Reuters | December 2017)
Australian Parliament legalizes same-sex marriage following postal referendum
- With a near-unanimous vote, the House of Representatives voted to amend the Marriage Act to remove the barrier to marriage rights for same-sex couples, following a similar vote in the Senate.
- A postal referendum, the result of a controversial decision by the Tony Abbott–led government in 2015 to put the marriage right question to popular referendum, returned 61.6% of Australians voting in favor of removing orientation-based discrimination in marriage law.
- The Marriage Act had been amended in 2004 to deny same-sex couples the legal right to marriage.
“Marriage equality law passes Australia’s parliament in landslide vote” (The Guardian | December 2017)
“Same-sex marriage legalised in Australia as Parliament passes historic law” (The Sydney Morning Herald | December 2017)
“Same-sex marriage: First weddings take place in Melbourne, Sydney” (ABC News | December 2017)
Austria’s highest court recognizes same-sex marriage rights
- The Constitutional Court of Austria ruled that the country’s law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
- The law in question, introduced in 2009, allowed for registered partnerships but not full marriage for same-sex couples, creating discriminatory sex-based classes of partnership.
- The decision paves the way for same-sex couples in Austria to begin marrying in 2019, becoming the 16th European country to recognize same-sex marriage rights.
“Austria’s supreme court paves way for same-sex marriage from 2019” (Reuters | December 2017)
“Austrian Supreme Court rules in favour of same-sex marriage” (BBC News | December 2017)
“Austrian court rules same-sex couples can marry from 2019” (CNN | December 2017)