Israeli parliament passes law formally establishing country as Jewish nation-state
- The new basic law codifies a number of ultranationalist principles, including Hebrew as the sole national language, the expansion of Jewish settlement as a national priority, Jewish symbols as national symbols, and a unified Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
- Previously, Israel existed formally as a multiethnic democratic state, with Arabic as the second national language and the concerns of Arab Israelis—who comprise a fifth of the population—at least nominally afforded equal weight in matters of national identity and self-determination.
- While some observers have dismissed the law as largely symbolic, Arab lawmakers and progressive advocates argue it provides the legal ground for segregation and discrimination and reduces ethnic and religious minorities to a second-class citizenship.
“Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate” (Haaretz | July 2018)
“Israeli Law Declares the Country the ‘Nation-State of the Jewish People’” (The New York Times | July 2018)
“Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation-state’ law” (Al Jazeera | July 2018)
More than 10 killed, dozens wounded in Indonesian church bombings
- A family of six—including young children—launched coordinated suicide bombings at three church sites in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city.
- Targeting a Catholic church, a Pentecostal church, and the Indonesian Christian Church, the attacks left at least 13 dead and 40 wounded.
- The attack came as the Islamic State has stepped up recruitment in the Southeast Asia region, with police reporting that the family was among the 500 Islamic State sympathizers returning from Syria.
“IS-linked family responsible for Surabaya bombings, police say” (The Jakarta Post | May 2018)
“Family of IS-inspired suicide bombers attack Indonesian churches, at least 13 dead” (Reuters | May 2018)
“Indonesia attacks: How Islamic State is galvanising support” (BBC News | May 2018)
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)
Filipino Christians in Muslim-majority Marawi caught up in Mindanao violence
- Clashes between Islamist militants and Philippine soldiers in Marawi City have displaced as much as 90% of the city’s population.
- Militants have torched churches and reportedly taken hostages in the fight against the government, the extension of decades of conflict driven by increased Christian settlement in the region, the desire for more political autonomy by Moro (Muslim) liberation groups, and the rise of international terrorist organizations like the Islamic State.
- While the Philippine population as a whole is 90% Christian, Muslims comprise the majority of the population in Marawi City, located on the Philippines’ second-largest island, Mindanao.
“Christians caught up in Philippines’ urban battle with Islamists” (Reuters | May 2017)
“‘They kill defenceless people’: thousands flee Philippine city of Marawi” (The Guardian | May 2017)
“Mindanao crisis: A city on fire” (Al Jazeera | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Erik De Castro/Reuters)
Jakarta’s Christian governor of Chinese descent sentenced to prison for blasphemy
- Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was sentenced to two years in prison after having accused political opponents of using a verse from the Qur’an to mobilize opposition to his re-election.
- His remarks drew massive protests in the Muslim-majority country and a religiously charged vote for the Jakarta governorship in April, where he lost to Muslim rival Anies Baswedan.
- Judges cited fundamentalist religious groups in the ruling, shocking observers with a prison sentence for Ahok because he “did not feel guilt.”
“Jakarta governor Ahok sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy” (The Guardian | May 2017)
“Jakarta’s Christian Governor Ahok jailed for two years for blasphemy” (The Sydney Morning Herald | May 2017)
“Jakarta’s former governor Ahok dropping appeal against jail sentence for blasphemy” (ABC | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Antara/Pool/Sigid Kurniawan, via The Jakarta Post)
More than two dozen Coptic Christians killed in attack in Egypt
- Gunmen killed at least 29 and wounded two dozen more in Minya Province while they were en route to a monastery in central Egypt.
- The Islamic State claimed responsibility, the latest in a series of attacks by the fundamentalist group on the religious minority that has left more than 100 dead since December 2016.
- Thousands mourned the dead at the Church of the Sacred Family in the village of Dayr Jarnous before beginning a defiant march expressing outrage and calling for retribution.
“Grief, rage in Egyptian church after Copts attacked by gunmen” (Reuters | May 2017)
“Gunmen in Egypt Force Coptic Christian Pilgrims From Buses and Kill 28” (The New York Times | May 2017)
“Egypt Coptic Christians: IS claims attack” (BBC News | May 2017)
(Image Credit: Amr Nabil/Associated Press, via The New York Times)
At least three dozen killed in church bombings in Egypt
- At least 25 were killed and 78 injured at St. George’s Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, while a second targeted St. Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Pope in Alexandra, killing at least 11 and wounding 35.
- The bombings, claimed by the Islamic State, came during Palm Sunday observances, a week before Easter and ahead of a planned visit by Pope Francis.
- The attacks are the latest in a series committed by fundamentalist Islamic militants, with the Islamic State having shifted its strategy in Egypt to targeting the country’s Coptic Christian minority.
“Bombings at Egyptian Coptic churches kill 36, injure more than 100” (Reuters | April 2017)
“ISIS Claims 2 Deadly Explosions at Egyptian Coptic Churches on Palm Sunday” (The New York Times | April 2017)
“Egypt: Isis claims responsibility for Coptic church bombings” (The Guardian | April 2017)
(Image Credit: Khaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency, via The New York Times)
Hundreds of Christians flee as Islamic State violence increases in Egypt
- Dozens of families and more than 200 students fled the province of North Sinai as the Islamic State warned of more attacks against Christians in the country.
- Seven Christians have been killed over the last month in the provincial capital Arish, where the Islamic State is making an insurgent push.
- Militants circulated “death lists” online, forcing Christians to choose between flight or death.
(Image Credit: Ahmed Aboulenein/Reuters)
Christmas for the Vulnerable Christians of the World
Source: Al Jazeera YouTube
One of the most important days in the Christian holiday canon, Christmas is celebrated by the devout, the lapsed, and the unbelieving alike as a time of gift-giving, decorating, and shared cheer. However, many of the worlds Christians, minorities in their communities, continue to face persecution as religious-extremist, nationalist, and other reactionary forces gain footholds around the world. From Indonesia to Egypt, religiously diverse societies have experienced increased sectarian tensions as parallel forces—anti-Christian sentiment and Islamophobia—have disrupted what was once stable co-existence. This roundup takes a look at recent developments in the plight faced by some of the most vulnerable Christians around the world. Continue reading Global Event | Christmas
The Endless Labors of Pakistan’s Debt-Bound Women
A form of indentured servitude persists in the vast fields of Pakistan’s poorest regions, where families labor on lands to pay off debts whose balance never seems to decrease. But while men may find their “payments” limited to hard labor, women and girls find themselves vulnerable not only to physical labor, but to domestic, sexual, and even marital labor forced under conditions of extreme duress. Religious minorities are particularly vulnerable, with an estimated 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls trafficked as a result of these debts, sold off to predatory landowners and forced to convert to Islam. The Associated Press examines the conditions faced by the more than 2 million Pakistanis living in what human rights organizations have called modern-day slavery and the particular indignities to which women and girls are subjected.
“A Pakistani girl is snatched away, payment for a family debt” (The Associated Press)
(Image Credit: B.K. Bangash/AP)
Christians see restrictions on Christmas celebrations as crackdown by Chinese government continues
- A hotel in Zhejiang province canceled plans to host two services by local churches after a warning from the government.
- Zhejiang authorities have also moved to prevent informal “house churches” from operating and have banned all forms of religious activity in hospitals.
- Officials have condemned many forms of religious expression in the name of national security, considering Christianity an example of the “infiltration of hostile Western forces.”
“China Cracks Down on Christmas Celebrations, Bans Protestant Services” (Radio Free Asia)
“China’s Zhejiang Bans Religious Activities in Hospitals as Crackdown Widens” (Radio Free Asia, August 2016)
“Decapitated Churches in China’s Christian Heartland” (The New York Times, May 2016)
(Image Credit: Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press, via The New York Times)
IS claims responsibility on Cairo church bombing that left dozens dead
- The attack on St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral killed at least 25 people and injured nearly 50, most of them women, in Egypt’s deadliest mass killing driven by sectarian conflict since 2011.
- The cathedral was the seat of the Egyptian Orthodox Church and a prominent symbol for Egyptian Copts, who comprise around 10% of the country’s population and who have been subject to systemic discrimination.
- Following the attack, the Islamic State threatened to escalate its “war on polytheism,” leading members of the Christian community and government officials to suspect more large-scale attacks are on the way.
“ISIS Claims Responsibility for Egypt Church Bombing and Warns of More to Come” (The New York Times)
“Blast at Egyptian Coptic cathedral kills at least 25” (The Washington Post)
“23 killed in explosion inside church attached to Cairo’s Coptic cathedral” (Al-Ahram)
(Image Credit: Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images, via The New York Times)
Pro-diversity mass demonstration takes place in Jakarta
- Known as the Bhineka Tunggal Ika (“Unity in Diversity”) Parade, the event brought hundreds of pro-diversity demonstrators out dressed in red and white (the national colors) and traditional dress to support ethnic and religious unity in the country.
- The peaceful event was a response to growing concerns about the influence of fundamentalist Islamic leaders in the Muslim-majority country.
- Recently, hundreds of thousands protested in a call for Jakarta’s governor, an ethnic Chinese Christian, to be charged with blasphemy, and an attack on a church in Samarinda left three children injured and one dead.
“Hundreds join Bhineka Tunggal Ika Parade” (The Jakarta Post)
“Thousands of Indonesians rally against racial, religious intolerance” (Reuters)
“Indonesia Says Jakarta’s Christian Governor Is Suspected of Blasphemy” (The New York Times)
(Image Credit: Wienda Parwitasari/The Jakarta Post)
The Unweaving of Mosul
As the battle rages between the Islamic State and a coalition of forces led by the Iraqi government for control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, many of the ethnic and religious minorities who called it home for generations fear the city will never again be the tolerant, culturally rich home it once was. Sunnis, Shiites, Yazidis, Christians, Kurds, Arabs, and others all coexisted in the vibrant cultural landscape of a city with both historical and contemporary significance, but the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq and the recent occupation of Mosul by the Islamic State have all but decimated the minority communities that called the city home. The New York Times takes a look at the city’s decline, the uncertainty of its future, and the stories of those who once flourished in a cosmopolitan city known for its diversity and tolerance.
“In Once-Tolerant Mosul, a Social Unraveling That Feels Permanent” (The New York Times)
“Iraq: Can Mosul survive ISIL?” (Al Jazeera)
(Image Credit: Felipe Dana/Associated Press, via The New York Times)