IRAQ – First church service held in Mosul since liberation from Islamic State
Iraqi Christians have held what is thought to be the first church service in the Mosul since the city was retaken from Islamic State (IS). The pastor who led the communion service on 9 August described the devastation in the church: “Rubble everywhere, the stone facing on walls knocked off … Crosses set into the walls were chopped off with sledgehammers so no trace would remain of anything that is Christian, of anything that is Jesus Christ.”
Some Christians have begun returning to their homes in Qaraqosh in northern Iraq – once the largest Christian town in the country, located around 20 (32 km) south-east of Mosul – where IS militants also badly damaged churches. However, the future of Iraq’s historic Christian community remains extremely uncertain and many believers no longer feel safe or welcome in the places they once called their home.
From CNA here
CHINA – Children banned from attending church by authorities
Chinese authorities in several provinces have banned children from attending church. In August, more than one hundred churches in Zhejiang province were notified that minors would not be permitted to participate in religious activities, including Sunday School or summer camps, even if accompanying their parents.
The ban on children attending church applies to state-recognised churches, which are required to be registered with the authorities and are only allowed to operate under close supervision. All the activities of believers who are part of China’s flourishing “house church” movement are already illegal.
From Daily Mail here
KENYA – Police killed protecting church from attack by gunmen
Two policemen were killed on Sunday 3 September, when four gunmen attacked St Paul’s Anglican Church in Ukunda, south-east Kenya, while a service was taking place. Just as the pastor was about to begin his sermon, gunshots were heard outside. The attackers escaped on motorbikes, leaving both policemen fatally wounded. Police are still investigating, but it has been suggested that militants from the Somali-based terror group Al Shabaab were behind the attack. Nine Christians were murdered in an attack by Al Shabaab in south-east Kenya in July – gunmen went from house to house, singling out Christians for execution.
From Global Christian News here
PAKISTAN – Pakistan judge suggests false accusations of blasphemy should receive same punishment as those guilty of blasphemy
In the latest twist of Pakistan’s attempt to introduce a global Islamic blasphemy law for social media the Islamabad High Court has ordered a complete ban on Facebook if the website management allows material judged to contravene the blasphemy law. However, in making his ruling the judge also noted the widespread abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy law with false accusations frequently made to settle grudges. This is something that particularly affects Pakistan’s Christian minority who are particularly vulnerable as their testimony in court is often given less weight than a Muslim’s and defiling the name of Muhammad carries a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan.
The judge’s detailed written judgement noted that in the Pakistan Penal Code the maximum penalty for anyone making a false accusation of any crime is only six months imprisonment or a 1,000 rupee fine (which with inflation is now only about £7.50, $9.80, or €8.20 ). He therefore asked Pakistan’s National Assembly to consider amending the law so that anyone lodging a false complaint under the blasphemy law would receive the same penalty as a guilty person.
From Dawn newspaper here
PAKISTAN – Pakistan Christian boy accused of desecrating Quran by rival garbage collector
A 16-year-old Christian rubbish collector has been accused of burning the Quran and beaten up by a mob in Gujranwala. The boy ‘A.S.’ has now been charged under section 295-B of Pakistan’s Penal Code and, if convicted, will face life imprisonment. However, the boy’s father has suggested his son has been framed by a Muslim rival rubbish collector who wanted to stop him collecting papers outside an Islamic shrine. Last month (August) this Muslim boy alleged that “someone” had burnt a copy of the Quran at the shrine. Then on Sunday 20 August, he found A.S. in the bazaar, began beating him up and then accused him burning the Quran which resulted in a mob joinng in the attack on A.S.
Many Christians in Pakistan earn their living as sweepers or by collecting paper and rubbish on the streets which they then sell for recycling. Because most of them are illiterate they would not necessarily recognise that a piece of paper was from the Quran and so it would be particularly difficult for such individuals to defend themselves against an accusation of this nature which they are alleged to have done several weeks earlier.
From Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper here