Displaying items by tag: Asia
It is fire season in Thailand, with hundreds of patches of farmland and forest ablaze in the north, belching toxic fumes into the atmosphere and poisoning the air. Tiny pollution particles caused an estimated 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand in 2019, according to a global report. Along with exhaust fumes and crop burning, smoke from the wildfires contributes to the problem. On the worst days this year, drifting smoke made Chiang Mai the most polluted city in the world. As the years go by, the pollution is getting worse. Each year, on average, northern Thailand has been swathed in smoke for eight weeks, causing thousands of health problems. In the first three months of this year 200,000 people in eight provinces have been made ill by toxic particles in the air, according to health officials. ‘Most of the people hospitalised already had chronic diseases,’ said the director-general of the ministry of public health.
A Turkish court sentenced Syriac priest Father Sefer to two years and one month in prison on terrorism-related charges. This sentence comes just over a year after Father Bileçen was detained alongside twelve others on the charges of aiding the PKK, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation. Father Bileçen said, ‘Two members of the organisation came to the monastery asking for food, and I gave it. It was detected afterwards, and the gendarmerie commander met me through the metropolitan bishop. I did not deny it. I wanted security measures to be taken so that this would not happen again. But no security measures were taken.’ Nevertheless he thought the case was closed. Christians in rural Turkey are caught in the middle of the Turkey-PKK conflict and no matter how they respond - they lose. Religious charity is being criminalised.
Iran is currently fighting a fourth wave of the pandemic, according to its health authorities, who announce horrifying rates on a daily basis. As of 6 April, the number of cities under a red alert hit 88, marking a sudden jump from 47 only two days before. One of the latest members of the red zone is the capital Tehran. Of the city’s 175 hospitals, 173 are dealing with Covid patients, whose population has grown by 100% since last week, fuelling fears that in a matter of weeks, if not days, hospitals will be overwhelmed. Over 90,000 nurses battling the pandemic on the poorly-equipped front lines have been infected by the virus. The rates are blamed on an easily transmissible new mutation, which was first identified in the UK and referred to as the British virus. The government traced the spiking rates to negligence of preventive measures during the two-week Persian New Year holidays that ended on 2 April.
The following is part of an email: ‘We give thanks to God for the way the five-year community-based rehabilitation (CBR) project is going in a mountainous district of Nepal. In its first year it has already reached hundreds of people with disabilities and their families, helping them access services, including livelihoods and physical rehabilitation, and is slowly helping to change attitudes in the community so they are included with kindness and respect. C is planning a home assignment after two years without a break! Pray that his successor as leader will enjoy the work, want to stay, and adapt quickly to living remotely.’
Father Tulak was preaching at a Catholic cathedral in Indonesia when it was attacked by suicide bombers on Palm Sunday. He said God protected church members and guards, who were only two metres away from the bombers when they exploded. ‘What happened in my church is a personal testimony for the world.’ Indonesia is one the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nations. Christians in the area are unfortunately used to these types of attacks, especially during Christian celebrations. Please pray for the injured church guards, who are in a police hospital for protection.
On 27 March security forces killed over fifty protesters who defied a warning that they could be shot ‘in the head and back’ if they came out while the country's generals celebrated Armed Forces Day. ‘Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,’ said Dr Sasa, a spokesman for the anti-junta group of deposed lawmakers. Local media reported that around 3,000 people from Karen state have left the country and crossed the border into Thailand to escape the violence. Airstrikes that sent villagers fleeing into the jungle show the Myanmar situation is ‘much worse’, a humanitarian worker said. At least 114 people were killed by security forces on 29 March, including a five-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. Despite the bloodshed, protesters returned to the streets. Citizens are living amid increasing violence. People are being beaten and shot; now they face multiple airstrikes. Myanmar has not had airstrikes there for over twenty years.
The latest evidence of Iran concealing vital elements of its nuclear programme from the outside world suggest that even if there is a resumption of negotiations, the regime has little genuine interest in complying with the terms of any future deal. Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has ordered the government to start limiting some inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring nuclear activities. This came after the IAEA published a report revealing last summer’s inspectors found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to. With the Biden administration seemingly keen to recommence negotiations with Tehran, fresh photographic evidence is emerging that the regime is up to its old tricks by attempting to conceal key elements of the Isfahan uranium enrichment facility from UN inspectors.
Christian volunteer security guards are preparing to defend their churches in the run-up to Easter. With world-wide concern peaking after Palm Sunday’s suicide bomb in Indonesia, William Arif Khan and his team of fifteen security volunteers at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral stressed the need for extra vigilance. ‘For the past twelve years, I have been leading young men dedicated to support the police’s security guards stationed at the cathedral. We don't expect any rewards. All of them have dedicated their holiday to the Church. They have metal detectors. The police have allowed us to keep some licensed weapons on church premises; but only my deputy and I are armed with a pistol. Everybody is afraid of the terrorists. But we stand for the One who protects us all. Our faith tells us that God won't let us down. We perform our duties with complete passion and avoid negative thinking.’
Indonesia has banned schools from forcing girls to wear Islamic hijab headscarves after the case of a Christian pupil pressured to cover up sparked outrage in the world’s most populous Muslim nation (90% of the population follows Islam). The move was applauded by rights activists, who say non-Muslim girls have been forced for years to wear a hijab in conservative parts of the country. State schools across the archipelago of nearly 270 million people will face sanctions if they fail to comply with the edict. Nadiem Makarim, the education minister, said that religious attire was an individual choice and schools cannot make it compulsory.
On 22 March the Philippines demanded China withdraw its massive ‘fishing fleet’, controlled by its navy, from waters that Manila has exclusive economic rights over. These boats have been nicknamed ‘little blue men’ because their role is similar to Putin's famous ‘little green men’ (Russian soldiers without official insignia who invaded eastern Ukraine on behalf of Moscow in 2014). For the Chinese navy to masquerade as fisherfolk is nothing new. But this time the sheer scale of the flotilla, a whopping 220 vessels, totally outnumbers the ill-equipped Philippine navy, coastguards, and local fishing boats which have long complained of China chasing them out of their own waters. As China's power rises, so too has Beijing's determination to dominate the South China Sea despite American intervention in the past, and the Philippines’ attempts to prevent illegal control.