Displaying items by tag: Asia
Handicap International’s involvement in Thai refugee camps gives children the opportunity to be a cared-for child. Being a child in poverty and stress is particularly challenging if you are disabled. Since 1984, Thailand has sheltered people fleeing Myanmar’s violence in camps along the border. Some refugees were born in the camps and have never set foot outside. Most are Karen, a mixed people group without a shared language or religion. Since the 1940s, ongoing conflicts between Karen separatists and the Burmese army have forced many to flee. 400,000 Karen people are homeless. Camp conditions are extremely poor; in the past cholera and malaria have occurred. Children suffer from chronic malnutrition and respiratory infections. There is no electricity, phone signal, healthcare, or education.
Pope Francis is making a monumental trip to Iraq in order to bring healing to the war-torn society. As the very first pope to set foot on Iraq's soil, he plans to meet with key Christian and Muslim leaders to address issues faced by both groups. This event is being heralded by the Iraqi government as a ‘historic event, symbolising a message of peace to Iraq and the whole region.’ Peace indeed is needed for the small remnant of Christians left in Iraq. Christian communities were scattered by the Daesh onslaught in 2014, further shrinking the country’s already dwindling Christian population. Their struggle to endure will get a boost from the historic visit in March, his first foreign trip since the coronavirus pandemic and a sign that ‘You’re not alone, there’s someone who is thinking of you, who is with you’.
Acknowledging a need to restrain the abuse of ‘blasphemy’ laws and protect victims of false accusation, forced marriages to Muslims and forced conversions, the government has appointed a special assistant to the prime minister on religious harmony and Middle East. It is hoped this appointment will end the social structure where Christians are inferior to Muslims, confined to low-paid menial jobs such as street sweeping and latrine cleaning. A significant government statement affirmed that minorities living in Pakistan are ‘not second-class citizens’, and guarantees they will be protected under the rights and privileges enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution. Also, there is now a grievance helpline set up to report false accusations of ‘blasphemy’.
Pastor Michael travelled to Turkey in 1999 as a relief worker, following the devastating earthquake that killed 17,000 people. He and his family settled there, and he has been pastor of Yalova Lighthouse Church since 2003. Earlier in February he was detained by the authorities and held for 30 hours, then given ten days to leave the country, an order deferred while his case proceeds. An appeal against the deportation order is to be heard in Ankara. Since 2019, about 70 overseas Christian leaders have been similarly expelled from Turkey as ‘threats to national security’. Hostility towards Christians has worsened as secularism gives way to Islam with the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Its founder, President Erdogan, is outspoken about his desire to recreate the Ottoman Empire.
Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has warned of an attempted military coup, after the country's armed forces said he and his cabinet must resign. The army ‘must obey the people and elected authorities’, he told thousands of supporters in the capital Yerevan. His opponents held a rival rally. The military's top brass was angered by the PM's sacking of a commander. Mr Pashinyan has faced protests after losing last year's bloody conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh - an enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians since a 1994 truce. During the six weeks of fighting late in 2020, Azerbaijan not only recaptured areas around the enclave but also took the key town of Shusha inside it. Under the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards, Azerbaijan keeps the areas it has captured.
President Mahmoud Abbas has guaranteed that at least seven seats of a new legislative council will go to Christians in the elections in the occupied territories to be held on 22 May. Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian who recently resigned her position on the PLO’s executive committee, said she is uneasy about reserving seats for specific communities. However, the president of Bethlehem Bible College said, ‘This is an important and long-awaited opportunity for young Palestinian Christians to participate in this public process, whether as candidates or as voters’. Emigration due to violence has produced a huge drop in the Palestinian Christian population. Many believe the way to fight emigration is to give them reasons to stay. What is needed is a system that protects people and provides for their rights, not allow churches to become museums.
An army document has been discovered instructing soldiers to ‘punish and break down’ ethnic-minority Christians and anyone objecting to the military regime. The discovery came as the army ramped up armed patrols in Karen and Kachin States. Since December 2020, the military have increased ceasefire violations in Karen State, shelling villages in order to clear land for new roads and military installations. The official document states military personnel should fire 12mm weapons (equivalent to a machine gun) at individuals or use a 38mm weapon (a gun to launch grenades) on groups of civilians. The directives include special instructions to round up any dissenting civilian doctors and nurses and to report on any local leaders who are not fully cooperating with the military. There are many Christians amongst both the Karen and the Kachin ethnic groups, and thousands of Christian villagers fled to remote jungle areas when persecution began.
When Iranian authorities arrested and executed his 18-year-old brother for a minor political crime. Hormoz wanted revenge. But God spoke to his heart: ‘Those people who killed your brother are not your enemies. They are victims in the hands of your enemies. When you see Muslims killing others they are victims.’ Today house churches in Iran celebrate with satellite broadcasts of Hormoz. He is now an evangelist in the tsunami of salvation washing over Iran. While Iran’s regional ambitions and nuclear programme dominate the news, widespread underground unseen revival is occurring.
When a pastor shared the gospel with a Nepali family, they eagerly placed their faith in Christ and began attending church regularly, walking eight miles each way to attend. But when the owner of the land they leased learned of their newfound faith in Christ, he kicked them off the land. As an extremely poor family struggling to survive, they had leased the land both to live on and to farm, giving half their crops to their landlord in payment. In addition to being evicted from the land, they were denied access to the village water tap. Our persecuted brothers and sisters in Nepal face great pressure from their communities to reject Christ or suffer the consequences of continuing harassment and beatings from nationalists who envisage Nepal becoming a ‘pure’ Hindu nation. Also the government has criminalised conversion to Christianity and declared that ‘those who change their religion should be expelled from Nepal.’
The military held its first news conference since toppling the government. They said the armed forces would not remain in power for long, and would ‘hand power back to the winning party’ following another election. On 18 February the military ordered more arrests, and civil servants went on strike. Large numbers have protested for 16 days. ‘It is incredible to witness that our people are unified. People’s power must return to the people,’ actor Lu Min wrote on Facebook. Many of the country’s lawyers have joined the Red Ribbon Campaign calling for the restoration of democracy in the country. The Defend Lawyers website reported that forty barristers could face prosecution for participating in the anti-coup movement. Doctors Without Borders are ‘gravely concerned’ about the recent arrests and detentions of health care workers and other civilians. The situation has the potential to severely interrupt the lifesaving healthcare that they and others have been providing to the most vulnerable people in the country, particularly in the time of the Covid pandemic.