Displaying items by tag: Asia
72-year-old Christian Younis Bhatti has been discharged from a blasphemy case after the accuser, Sosan Fatima, admitted to falsely accusing him. Fatima had alleged that Bhatti desecrated the Quran, but confessed to a conspiracy to prevent him from dividing property. Bhatti has been reunited with his family, but it was not thought safe for him to return home immediately. The incident had led to protests, prompting many Christians to flee. Bhatti's discharge, facilitated by a Christian rights organisation, was hailed as a miracle. Blasphemy accusations in Pakistan,often used to settle personal scores, can result in death sentences. Fatima's husband escaped police custody, leading to the suspension of the policemen who were with him, but was later recaptured. This case highlights the misuse of blasphemy laws and the risks faced by religious minorities in Pakistan.
Marius Werner, a young German, anonymously donated stem cells that saved the life of British doctor Dr Nick Embleton, who was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. Unable to find a match in the UK, the search extended globally, leading to Marius. Two years after the transplant, BBC News facilitated their meeting. Nick, a veteran neonatal doctor, feared for his life upon diagnosis but now cherishes family time. Bone marrow transplants require matching donors,and both donor and patient remain anonymous initially. After a successful transplant, Nick expressed a desire to meet Marius. They met in Newcastle. Marius, overwhelmed, shared how he had been suicidal, but this opportunity to save someone brought new purpose to his life. Their meeting saw the fostering of a bond between these two ‘blood brothers’, who were brought together by a life-saving act of kindness.
The US military has conducted four ‘self-defence’ strikes against Houthi forces in Yemen, destroying seven cruise missiles, a mobile ballistic missile launcher, and a drone aimed towards the Red Sea. These were regarded as an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships. Israel's Arrow missile defence system intercepted an air attack from the Red Sea direction near Eilat. The Houthis, controlling populous Yemen regions, have targeted vessels tied to the US, UK, and Israel since November. The USA condemns their actions as terrorism, citing attacks on civilians and shipping, but the Houthis claim that their actions are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Their attacks have disrupted global commerce, rerouting ships around Africa, exacerbating humanitarian crises in regions like Sudan, Ethiopia, and Yemen. Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has urged Hamas to drop their ‘absurd’ demands for releasing Israeli hostages: see
Two major parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), have agreed to form a coalition government following inconclusive national elections. PMLN president Shehbaz Sharif, who will be the prime ministerial candidate, has stated that they have the necessary numbers to govern. Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP will be the presidential candidate. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which won the most seats but lacked a majority, accused rivals of stealing their mandate. Claims of vote-rigging have been fuelled by a confession by a top official who has implicated the head of the election commission and a top judge. This has prompted protests, due to which social media platform X has been inaccessible. The delay in forming a government had caused concern; the country is grappling with an economic crisis amid slow growth and record inflation and rising violence by armed groups. It needs a stable administration with the authority to take tough decisions.
A new database by Malaysian climate watchdog RimbaWatch has shown that despite global efforts to combat climate change, Southeast Asian countries are still planning to develop numerous fossil fuel projects, which could significantly increase carbon emissions. These planned projects could lead to a surge in emissions, posing a major challenge to the region's commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. This is the first time that an assessment of the carbon cost has been made in the region: RimbaWatch has used the data available from the fossil fuel companies themselves, such as the Malaysian giant Petronas. The report also emphasises the urgent need for transparency and accountability in assessing the environmental impact of these projects. It calls for greater scrutiny and regulation to ensure that the countries align their development plans with global climate goals and prioritise sustainable energy alternatives.
6 February was the anniversary of two earthquakes that brought mass destruction to south Türkiye and northwest Syria, with over 50,000 lives lost. There were 1.7 million people in Hatay province, home to Türkiye’s largest Christian community; now there are only 250,000, as residents have moved to stay with relatives or find shelter elsewhere. A SAT-7 team who revisited the area found many who stayed living in ‘cities’ of container units. Rebuilding is under way, but the pace is slow and the task colossal. Although destruction was less widespread in Syria, many factors are preventing recovery. After twelve years of conflict, over four million people in the area were in need of humanitarian aid even before the quakes struck. Government corruption, international sanctions, and a collapse in the value of the Syrian currency have compounded the problem. The Bishop of Aleppo, Magar Ashkarian, said that although the earthquake had increased Christian migration abroad, denominations have come closer: ‘We live together in a very close relationship and try to help entirely without discrimination’.
Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted his troops will advance on the Gazan city of Rafah, defying international pleas to reconsider. He has ordered his army to prepare for a ground assault on the city, where some 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering, but talked of first ‘allowing the civilian population to leave the battle zones’. His aim is to eliminate Hamas from the city. The prime ministers of France, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have urged Israel to refrain from the operation to avoid a humanitarian disaster, while Spain and Ireland have asked the EU to investigate ‘urgently’ whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry reports that the death toll in Gaza is now at least 28,500 casualties.
The recent demolition of two mosques has accentuated religious divisions as India prepares for elections in April / May, expected to secure prime minister Narendra Modi a third term. The demolitions, in Uttarakhand and Delhi, come weeks after the inauguration of the contentious Ram Mandir temple on the site of a historic mosque torn down by Hindu fundamentalists in the 1990s. That ceremony, marking a huge shift away from modern India’s secular founding principles, was hailed by Hindu nationalists as a crowning moment in their decades-long campaign to reshape the nation. Both demolitions were supposedly because of ‘illegal encroachment’. In Uttarakhand, violent confrontations followed, claiming six lives and prompting curfews. Many scared Muslims have said they just want to leave. Analysts fear escalating religious tensions as Modi's BJP advances its populist, divisive policies ahead of the elections. Despite Modi's aspiration to portray India as a vibrant modern superpower, many Muslims feel marginalised in the world’s largest democracy.
In 1973, Solomon Bulan resigned as a secondary school advisor in Bario, Malaysia, confessing his lack of personal conviction. His emotional confession triggered a community-wide revival marked by repentance and reconciliation. The movement, known as the Bario revival, spread across tribes and communities, sparking four waves of spiritual renewal over eleven years. This led to cultural transformation and contributed to the growth of the Malaysian church. Despite periods of spiritual dryness, faithful intercessors sustained subsequent revivals. The revival's impact extended beyond spiritual realms, healing the land and fostering a vibrant worship culture. Prayer meetings, spontaneous worship, and evangelism became commonplace, emphasising God's power to transform lives. In recent years, efforts to commemorate and reignite the revival have seen the formation of intergenerational prayer movements like Tribal Gathering 2023, uniting believers across Malaysia and Southeast Asia in anticipation of a new move of God. The heart of this movement lies in young leaders seeking to awaken and mobilise the church for spiritual transformation.
Novaya Urada, a village in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, has deep roots in livestock farming and each year draws tourists hoping to photograph a vibrant poppy field nearby. However, responding to an escalating rubbish crisis, the authorities have started work on a landfill site near the village, expected to receive 300 tons of non-recyclable rubbish a year - even though there will also be three new waste-processing facilities in the republic this year. Despite initial assurances that they had nothing to worry about, residents are fighting determinedly against the dump, citing lack of consultation and environmental impact assessment. They say that construction has already destroyed the beloved poppy field and is threatening the nearby Sarykum Dune, home to rare flora and fauna.