Displaying items by tag: Asia
Israel’s government is considering halting the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions, with some senior officials now weighing new prohibitions. A new report cited health ministry officials who warned that a third nationwide lockdown might be imposed during the upcoming Hanukkah festival, which begins in December. ‘The idea that we may need to impose a third lockdown during Hanukkah is not unfounded,’ the sources were quoted as saying. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked experts to draw up plans for new restrictions, including nightly curfews which could be imposed across Israel. Under the current exit strategy, Israel was to have entered the third stage of the gradual reduction of lockdown restrictions next week, with shopping malls and markets reopening, along with studies resuming for students in grades 11 and 12.
On 2 November Karachi police recovered a 13-year-old Christian girl and arrested the Muslim accused of abducting and forcibly marrying and converting her. The action came after a rising tide of protests over the previous validation of the marriage. The girl, Arzoo Raja, was due to appear on 5 November at a court hearing which will hear evidence about Arzoo’s age (her parents have provided proof that she was born in 2007) and decide whether she was forcibly converted and if her marriage is legal.
The Azeri-Turkey offensive is worsening, with cluster bombs falling on innocent civilians even as they sheltered in churches. There is justifiable concern among Armenian Christians of a rising threat of ethnic cleansing from their historic Christian land. On 1 November the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that the indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas with associated loss of civilian life and destruction of infrastructure ‘contravenes international humanitarian law’ and ‘could be a war crime’. Recent reports indicate that large supplies of Israeli-built weapons, including devastating ‘kamikaze drones’ and unmanned aerial vehicles have been supplied to Azerbaijan and deployed against Christian civilians. Since September 90,000 Armenians, over half the region’s population of 144,000, have fled the conflict to take refuge in Armenia. Pray that the supply of military weapons to Azerbaijan will cease immediately and for guarantees that Israeli technology, including lethal drone strikes, will not be used in the conflict.
The Philippines is used to powerful storms, but this year preparations are being complicated by Covid-19 which has killed 7,221 people so far. On 1 November, in preparation for Typhoon Goni, 361,000 people were evacuated to tents inside school gymnasiums and government-run evacuation centres. Coronavirus patients are treated in isolation tents. Goni damaged 90% of the buildings in Virac, the first town it struck. Pray for the 70,000 residents who have lost so much, including lives. Pray for those in several other towns still inaccessible on 5 November. Pray for successful relief efforts being complicated by the pandemic. Pray for the 370,000 displaced people not knowing what they will find when they return home. Tens of thousands of homes are completely destroyed. Goni is the worst typhoon to hit the Philippines in seven years. With communication not yet completely restored it is difficult to obtain information. Pray for speedy repairs to electricity, water, and cellular networks.
Harsh sentences reflect dark times for both recognised and underground churches in Iran. The flogging of an underground Christian, and the harsh prison sentence upheld for the pastor of a legally-recognised church, reflect the growing dangers for Christians. Mohammad Reza Omidi received 80 lashes for drinking communion wine. Alcohol is forbidden only for Muslims, but since Iranian law does not recognise his conversion from Islam to Christianity, he was sentenced to the lashes in September 2016. The sentence was not carried out until recently. Two of his fellow house-church members, Mohammad Ali (Yasser) Mossayebzadeh and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaee, have also been sentenced to flogging. Omidi received 80 lashes in 2013 for the same offence. Advocacy director Mansour Borji said the lashes were ‘inhumane and humiliating’.
A Saudi women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul (31), was arrested along with about a dozen other female activists in May 2018. She has been on hunger strike for a week, and on 5 November her health was said to be rapidly worsening. UN experts are calling for her immediate release. She was arrested just weeks before Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-old ban on female drivers, yet she is still in prison. Her deteriorating health was ‘deeply alarming’, said the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The committee, made up of 23 independent experts, also voiced serious concern ‘by recent information concerning the conditions of Ms al-Hathloul’s prolonged detention, including reports that she is not allowed regular contact with her family’. Some activists arrested with her were provisionally released. Others remain in detention, subjected to waterboarding, sexual harassment, and court trials for contacting media, diplomats and human rights groups.
An Indian government-backed Covid-19 vaccine could be launched as soon as February, months earlier than expected. Final trials begin this month and studies have so far shown it is safe and effective, said a senior government scientist. Bharat Biotech is the private company developing Covaxin. ‘The vaccine has shown good efficiency’, said senior ICMR scientist Rajni Kant, who is also a member of the Covid-19 task-force.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned to court in Iran, according to her family, who said she has been told to pack a bag as she will be returned to prison following a hearing on 2 November. Her local MP Tulip Siddiq said the timing of the trial raised ‘serious concerns’ as it follows the postponement of a court hearing about the UK's historic debt to Iran. She added, ‘Nazanin has once again been treated with utter contempt and I am extremely concerned about her future and wellbeing. The fact that she has been told to pack a bag for prison ahead of her court hearing doesn't fill me with confidence that this will be anything close to a fair trial. The timing of this development alongside the postponement of the court hearing raises serious concerns.’
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests. Recently the wife and family of Asif Pervaiz went into hiding after Pervaiz was sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy. Pervaiz was handed the death sentence on 8 September, nearly seven years after his arrest. ‘She is in hiding because she feels threatened,’ said Release International, an organisation that supports persecuted Christians. For the sad story of the family’s ordeal, click the ‘More’ button.
Conditions are ripe for another military takeover in Thailand. There have been 13 coups since the 20th century began. Today, any conflict between pro-democracy demonstrators and monarchy supporters could give the military an excuse to take control. Led by students, ongoing pro-democracy protests have been largely peaceful. Demonstrators want the current prime minister to resign, and they are calling for constitutional reform. Protestors appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday after marching to the German embassy in Bangkok. Supporters of the Thai kingdom criticised this youthful movement saying, ‘Without a monarchy, there would be a civil war’. A lot of people trying to stand up for their lives and rights have others opposing them, leading to outbreaks of violence which are destroying society but also presenting a unique Gospel opportunity. The local church intends to be an agent of peace. Pray for Thai believers to stand out as peacemakers, drawing many to Christ.