01/18/2022 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Finland and the European Union have condemned the sentencing of Pastor Zafar Bhatti. Bhatti is a Pakistani man, who has been sentenced to death for allegedly sending a series of blasphemous text messages in 2012. Pakistan has one of the most notorious blasphemy laws in the world, with three levels of severity described. The third, (295-C) commands a death sentence if the accused is convicted.
The European’s decision to condemn Bahtti’s death sentence is absolutely correct. The letter by Miika Niikko, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Finland, questioned whether the sentence was truly justified considering the severity of the offense and the fact that Bhatti had already spent the last 10 years in jail for the alleged crime.
“Here in Europe, there is no contrast between religions of people in our justice system. We treat people equally because it’s the right thing to do in the eyes of God and of a human. As you know, we have may Muslims here, in Europe. We are working to build tolerance and peaceful coexistence. We intervene if Muslims are oppressed…” the letter said. “Violations against human rights and religious freedom cannot be tolerated anywhere…” the letter continued.
While Finland may not have an unblemished record of its own around religious freedom, the condemnation by Mika Niikko is welcomed by most of the free world. Individuals like Zafar Bhatti are regularly persecuted in countries like Pakistan, and we must continue to demand every individual have the right to practice their faith in a manner in line with his or her conscience.
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Christians urge PM to take radical action on climate change after IPCC report
Christian groups are urging the Prime Minister to use the UK’s Presidency of COP26 this year to do more to address climate change and support communities already being impacted.
The call follows the release of the latest research from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned of “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity” to avert disaster.
The grim report says that the world is already living with the consequences of climate change, with heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires intensifying across the globe.
The panel says that over 40 per cent of the world’s population are now “highly vulnerable” to climate change and that many consequences cannot be reversed.
Responding to the report, Catholic aid agency CAFOD said it was imperative to keep “1.5 alive” as it called on governments to increase their commitments to net zero.
It is calling on rich countries to make good on their promises at COP26 and double the amount of funding for climate adaptation.
Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, said that for some communities, it was too late to adapt.
“How many crystal-clear red alerts on the climate crisis do we need before we take the urgent and meaningful action?” he said.
“Keeping warming below 1.5 degrees is the only way to avoid the huge destruction that failing those entails, especially for those living on the breadline across the world.
“We are also sadly seeing communities in East Africa and small island states where that destruction has gone beyond the ability to adapt, and they now urgently need funds to compensate for the destruction caused by a climate crisis they did not create.”
He added that while some success was being seen in initiatives to restore mangroves, tropical forests and other coastal and land ecosystems, support for these projects needs to be “massively scaled up”.
“Money to fight the climate crisis cannot be a bargaining chip to be played fast and loose with, this is about the survival
of all of us and the planet we love,” he said.
“In the lead up to COP27, it is vital that Loss and Damage and Adaptation are top of the agenda – it’s now or never for planet Earth.”
Peter Kihara Kariuki, Bishop of Marsabit in Kenya, said the region was facing “severe” drought, forcing people to trek up to 17km for water and leaving many dependent on aid from the church, government or NGOs for basic necessities.
“We must raise our voices and call for ambitious action from world leaders to bring about climate justice by enacting the strongest measures to keep the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees or below, commit to binding agreements to cut global carbon emissions, and increase support to communities like mine in Marsabit to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis,” he said.
“Climate change is real for us in Marsabit. As churches, as communities, we must make sure that our voices are heard. We have a saying in Swahili: ‘Kuja pamoja ni mwanzo, kukuwa pamoja ni maendeleo; kufanya kazi pamoja ni mafanikio,’ which translates as ‘coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success’.”
Nushrat Chowdhury, Climate Justice Advisor at Christian Aid, is based in Bangladesh. She said the country was already on “the frontline of climate change” and that those in poverty, women and children were being impacted the most.
“This report is a wake-up call to the world that those on the front lines of this crisis need much greater support if they are going to cope with climate impacts they have not caused,” she said.
She said that more funding was needed to help the vulnerable adapt and to support communities living with permanent damage.
“As COP president throughout 2022 the UK government has a vital role in leading global efforts to tackle climate change,” she said.
“The main thing lacking from the outcome at COP26 was robust financial help for the world’s most vulnerable, despite repeated promises from rich nations that it would be provided.
“It is now vital that the UK Government spearhead efforts to mobilise much greater funding to help the climate vulnerable adapt and to set up a fund to deal with the permanent loss and damage which cannot be adapted to.
“Only then will they have a legacy as COP26 president to be proud of.”
Several Coptic Monasteries Left to Crumble in Egypt
03/01/2022 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Several Coptic monasteries in Egypt are facing renovation and reopening issues, including Saint Paul’s monastery near Egypt’s Red Sea. The 4th-century monastery suffered serious flood damage earlier this month, resulting in collapsed walls and access roads flooded and closed off. In January another Coptic Orthodox 5th-century monastery also experienced crumbling walls. The monastery of Anba Samuel has been closed since a terrorist attack in May 2017 for security and renovation, but now monks are struggling to find a concession with authorities to open the building again.
Saint Paul’s monastery was closed off from access roads for some time as a result of the flooding and is built around the cave that its namesake lived in. Both Saint Paul’s and the 5th-century monastery reportedly were left crumbling by the Egyptian authorities. Under Egypt’s non-Muslim worship laws, pre-existing churches and monasteries are allowed but require special permission for rebuilding, repairing, or refurbishment.
In the past several years, security and renovation have been the primary focus at Abna Samuel Monastery, where authorities allowed the renovations after terrorist incidents that resulted in the martyrdom of 35 Copts. However, monastery and local officials struggle now to agree on the reopening of the monastery to the public.
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