Category : Asia

(BBC) Faith in ruins: China’s vanishing beards and mosques

“The BBC has found new evidence of the increasing control and suppression of Islam in China’s far western region of Xinjiang – including the widespread destruction of mosques.

Authorities provided rare access to religious sites and senior Islamic officials to support their claim that their policies only target violent religious extremism, not faith itself.

But after his official tour was over, China Correspondent John Sudworth set out to investigate.”

Watch it all (about 5 1/3 mins).

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(ABC Aus) Hong Kong Christians turn ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ into unlikely protest anthem

In Hong Kong there have long been links between the pro-democracy activists and in particular the Catholic Church, which has a decades-long unresolved dispute with China’s Government over the right to ordain bishops.

The city’s most prominent young political activist, Joshua Wong, is a devout Christian, as are many older members of the pan-democratic camp.

“Some Christians, including me, are afraid that if the extradition bill is passed, it could affect freedom of religion in Hong Kong and freedom of religious activities,” Mr [Edwin] Chow said.

He believes it is this fear that has mobilised a larger-than-normal turn-out among the city’s Christians, who number around 900,000 — or about 12 per cent of the population.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) A Muslim Family Sought Help at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing. The Police Dragged Them Out.

The last time Abdulhamid Tursun spoke to his wife, she was huddled in a Beijing hotel room with their four children, frightened after being evicted from the Belgian Embassy in the dead of night. Suddenly, plainclothes police officers burst into the room, cutting off the couple’s video call.

Mr. Tursun says he has not heard from her since.

His wife, Wureyetiguli Abula, 43, had gone to the Belgian Embassy to seek visas so the family — from the Uighur Muslim minority group — could be reunited with Mr. Tursun, 51, in Brussels, where he won asylum in 2017.

But instead of finding protection, Ms. Abula and her children, ages 5 to 17, were dragged away after the Chinese police were allowed to enter the embassy.

Now the case is raising alarms back in Belgium, where lawmakers are asking how it could have happened and where Mr. Tursun’s family has been taken. It illustrates how, two years after China began detaining Uighurs in a vast network of internment camps, the group has limited protections — even from Western democracies — against persecution by the Chinese government.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) As Trade War With U.S. Grinds On, Chinese Tourists Stay Away

A new battlefront has opened in the trade war between the United States and China: the $1.6 trillion American travel industry.

A Los Angeles hotel long popular with Chinese travelers saw a 23 percent decline in visits last year and another 10 percent so far this year. In New York City, spending by Chinese tourists, who spend nearly twice as much as other foreign visitors, fell 12 percent in the first quarter. And in San Francisco, busloads of Chinese tourists were once a mainstay of one fine jewelry business; over the last few years, the buses stopped coming.

Figures from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office show a sharp decline in the number of tourists from China last year.

Industry professionals worry that the drop-off is picking up speed this year, affecting not just airlines, hotels and restaurants, but also retailers and attractions like amusement parks and casinos.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Travel

(Wash Post) Ajay Verghese–Is India becoming a ‘Hindu state’?

So what does the BJP’s victory mean for Indian secularism?

First off, the term “secularism” is quite different in Indian politics — it’s not what U.S. audiences imagine it to be: a separation between church and state. Instead, it refers to religious neutrality (dharmnirpekshta): the equal treatment of all religious communities, irrespective of size, by the government.

Secularism in India is less concerned with religion interfering in politics (as in the United States) than with the state interfering in religion. As Rajeev Bhargava argues, Indian secularism is about maintaining a “principled distance” between the state and religion.

To get a better understanding of secularism in India, I conducted research in villages in the northern Indian state of Bihar in late 2017, and in February 2018, I conducted a survey of 900 Hindus across the state on religion and politics.

My preliminary findings show that Hindus in Bihar overwhelmingly support many of the ideals of Indian secularism — even government support for mosques. Critically, however, this is not true for more pious Hindus: The more religious voters are, the more they subscribe to the tenets of Hindu nationalism, especially the idea that Hindus deserve preferential treatment over Muslims.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(NYT) All 9 of Sri Lanka’s Muslim Ministers Resign, as Bombing Backlash Intensifies

All nine Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka’s government and two Muslim provincial governors resigned on Monday as the fragile, Buddhist-majority country grappled further with the communal backlash of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed as many as 250 people.

The resignations were in response to a hunger strike by an influential Buddhist monk, Athuraliye Rathana, who said he would fast to death unless the country’s president removed three senior Muslim officials — the two provincial governors and one of the ministers — that he accuses of having ties to the suicide bombers who targeted churches and hotels.

The eight ministers not targeted by Mr. Rathana announced their resignations in what appeared to be an act of solidarity with the three officials accused by the monk, who also serves as a member of Parliament and an adviser to the president, Maithripala Sirisena.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(BBC) The man who might have stopped Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings

In March, just over a month before the Easter attacks, a gunman quietly entered [Mohammad Razak] Taslim’s house in the early hours of the morning. He was lying in bed, next to his wife, and his youngest son. The gunman shot him once in the head.

“At first I thought the phone charger had exploded, but I looked and it was fine,” Taslim’s wife told me. “Then I tried to wake him up, and I could smell gunpowder… I reached out to him and I realised he wasn’t conscious. I thought he was dead.”

Taslim was rushed to hospital. He survived the attack, but it’s not clear if he will ever fully recover.

Sri Lanka’s army commander, Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake, is now playing a leading role in the investigation into the Easter Bombings. He told me it had been confirmed that the “same network” was also responsible for the desecration of the Buddhist statues, the explosives hidden in the coconut grove, and the shooting of Taslim.

He admitted that the previous incidents should have made the authorities more alert to the dangers of a jihadist attack. Instead, warnings by the Indian security services in the days and hours leading up the bombings weren’t followed up, due to what the army commander referred to as problems with “intelligence sharing” between different departments.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(NYT) Trade War Starts Changing Manufacturers in Hard-to-Reverse Ways

…evidence is mounting that the conflict has taken an economic toll. The Commerce Department said Thursday that trade — both imports and exports — slumped in April, and data released earlier this week showed a sharp slowdown in manufacturing, amplifying a recent trend. The bond market in recent days has been sending signals that the trade war could be a threat to growth in the United States and globally. The impact could deepen if Mr. Trump follows through on his promise, made Thursday, to impose new tariffs on imports from Mexico.

And as the conflict drags on, there are signs it is beginning to reshape the global economy in more fundamental ways.

“There’s definitely lasting damage that has been done,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s not going to mean the end of the world tomorrow, but it’s death by a thousand cuts. How competitive is America going to be in 10 or 15 years?”

Tariffs have not yet compelled businesses to return large-scale production to the United States, where labor and other costs tend to be much higher than in China and other overseas manufacturing hubs.

But trade tensions are accelerating a corporate trend of shifting supply chains away from China. In a recent survey of more than 200 corporate executives by the consulting firm Bain, 42 percent said they expected to get materials from a different region in the next year, and 25 percent said they were redirecting investments out of China.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(WSJ) Nina Shea and Bob Fu–Inside China’s War on Christians

President Xi Jinping last year began enforcing religious regulations to rein in church growth and bend Christian belief to party dictates. Mr. Xi gave direct control of churches to the officially atheistic Communist Party. Some urban underground megachurches were shut down. Thousands of congregants were arrested and several prominent Protestant pastors received lengthy prison sentences. Earlier this month, the regime launched a nationwide campaign to eradicate unregistered churches.

Mr. Xi calls this policy “sinicization.” The goal is to make religions “instruments of the Party,” the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions asserts. The government confirmed this when it inadvertently posted internal documents—downloaded by ChinaAid, a nonprofit Christian human-rights organization—revealing that it intended to “contain the overheated growth of Christianity.”

Last year in Henan province, 10,000 Protestant churches were ordered shut, even though most were registered with the state. During 2018, more than one million Christians were threatened or persecuted and 5,000 arrested. Among them is an American permanent resident, Pastor John Sanqiang Cao, 60, who is serving seven years for “organizing illegal border crossings” to deliver aid in Myanmar.

Mr. Xi’s regulations also ban minors from entering churches and forbid Sunday schools and Bible camps. In churches, Christian symbols sometimes are being replaced with pictures of Mr. Xi. Surviving churches may substitute biblical teachings with socialist values.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Church leaders welcome Modi victory, but concerns remain

Church leaders have welcomed the re-election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India, but campaigners warned that his nationalist stance could leave Christians vulnerable.

The recent election, which took place in seven stages, saw 900 million people eligible to vote. The turnout at 67 per cent was the highest ever in an Indian general election and it also saw the highest participation by women.

The main opponent of Mr Modi and his BJP party, Rahul Gandhi’s Indian National Congress and the United Progressive Alliance failed to secure the 10 per cent of the seats needed, meaning that India is without an official opposition party.

Archbishop Joseph D’Souza, on behalf of the Good Shepherd Churches in India and All India Christian Council has congratulated His Excellency Shri Narendra Modion his historic landslide win.

The Archbishop said that the members of the All India Christian Council and their churches would be praying for Shri Narendra Modi and his government ‘as he governs the nation with challenges ahead of him’.

However, other Christian groups were more circumspect.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, India, Other Churches, Politics in General

(Sunday [London] Times] Niall Ferguson–the world cannot afford another Thirty Years’ War: History suggests the US-China conflict will need a Westphalian resolution

The end of the Thirty Years’ War was not brought about by one treaty, but by several, of which the most important were signed at Münster and Osnabrück in October 1648. It is these treaties that historians refer to as the Peace of Westphalia. Contrary to legend, they did not make peace, as France and Spain kept fighting for 11 more years. And they certainly did not establish a world order based on modern states.

What the Westphalian settlement did was to establish power-sharing arrangements between the emperor and the German princes, as well as between the rival religious groups, on the basis of limited and conditional rights. The peace as a whole was underpinned by mutual guarantees, as opposed to the third-party guarantees that had been the norm before.

The Cold War ended when one side folded. That will not happen in our time. The democratic and authoritarian powers can fight for three or 30 years; neither side will win a definitive victory. Sooner or later there will have to be a compromise — in particular, a self-restraining commitment not to take full advantage of modern technology to hollow out each other’s sovereignty.

Our destination is 1648, not 1989 — a Cyber-Westphalia, not the fall of the Great Firewall of China. If we have the option to get there in three years, rather than in 30, we should take it.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(AFP) Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage in first for Asia

Taiwan’s parliament legalised same-sex marriage on Friday in a landmark first for Asia as the government survived a last-minute attempt by conservatives to pass watered-down legislation.

Lawmakers comfortably passed a bill allowing same-sex couples to form “exclusive permanent unions” and another clause that would let them apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

The vote — which took place on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — is a major victory for the island’s LGBT community and it places the island at the vanguard of Asia’s burgeoning gay rights movement.

Thousands of gay rights supporters gathered outside parliament despite heavy downpours, waving rainbow flags, flashing victory signs and breaking into cheers as the news filtered out.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Sexuality, Taiwan

(Scotsman) Gavin Matthews: We must find the right response to Sri Lanka Easter Sunday massacre

The foundational idea of Easter is that Jesus was ‘given’ to the world. Behind the religious violence of his death, we are invited to believe that, “God so loved the world that he gave his son”, and that Jesus “laid down his life for his friends”. Our first instinct should then be to give to the victims of religious violence and persecution. The Christian charity csw.org.uk works tirelessly for the freedom of religion and belief for people of all faiths and none. Giving to an organisation such as this might be our first response.

Then, on Good Friday, when Jesus was executed by the Roman soldiers, he famously cried out, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” – and this should frame our second response.

Jesus recognised that the foot-soldiers who were setting about his physical destruction were not the authors of his agonies, but were mere pawns in bigger schemes. Critically though, Jesus didn’t send his followers off to indiscriminately kill Roman citizens in response, but prayed for their salvation.

Today, offering Christian forgiveness does not mean that the state should not pursue justice through due process. However, it does mean that we cannot indulge in acts of revenge or hostility to anyone or any community, or propagate cycles of violence.

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(NYT) Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers

Every morning on her way to school, Hwang Wol-geum, a first grader, rides the same yellow bus as three of her family members: One is a kindergartner, another a third grader and the other a fifth grader.

Ms. Hwang is 70 — and her schoolmates are her grandchildren.

Illiterate all her life, she remembers hiding behind a tree and weeping as she saw her friends trot off to school six decades ago. While other village children learned to read and write, she stayed home, tending pigs, collecting firewood and looking after younger siblings. She later raised six children of her own, sending all of them to high school or college.

Yet it always pained her that she couldn’t do what other mothers did.

“Writing letters to my children, that’s what I dreamed of the most,” Ms. Hwang said.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Education, South Korea

(WSJ) Easter Attacks Leave Muslims Shaken and in Fear of Reprisals

In the days after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, a group of local men gathered outside the home here of one of the bombers to establish what they called a neighborhood watch—and prevent the Muslim family inside from committing more terrorist acts.

Inside, the bomber’s family grappled with grief over what one of their own had done and fear that his actions could bring reprisals against their Muslim minority.

“It is very hard to face people because of what he did, even just going outside is difficult,” said a sister of the bomber, 22-year-old law-school graduate Ahamed Muath Alawudeen. As she spoke, cries of her distraught mother echoed off the tile floors of the spacious home in an upscale Colombo neighborhood.

Since the Islamic State-linked attacks killed more than 250 people at Sri Lankan churches and hotels, Muslims have reported getting detained in security sweeps for simply carrying the Quran. In other cases, they have been refused access to public buses and taxis. On Sunday night, an apparent car accident in the city of Negombo, the scene of one of the bombings, led to a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims, news reports showed.

Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who make up less than 10% of the island nation’s population, have seen lesser sparks turn into fury against them. Last year, in days of religious riots, mobs of Buddhist extremists targeted Muslims for beatings.

Security forces now deployed across the Sri Lankan capital to prevent more terrorist attacks are also on alert for sectarian reprisals.

Read it all.

Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(ABC Aus.) ISIS ‘leader’ mentions Australian jihadist and Sri Lanka Easter bombings in first appearance in five years

A man purported to be reclusive Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made reference to the Sri Lanka Easter bombings and an Australian IS member in what appears to be his first appearance in five years.

The recently-released propaganda video appears to offer evidence that al-Baghdadi is alive, after many had speculated he had been killed or seriously injured.

The US has vowed to track down and defeat surviving leaders of the Islamic State group after the release of the video.

In the video, a man purporting to be al-Baghdadi acknowledged defeat in the group’s last stronghold — the Syrian village of Baghouz — but vowed a “long battle” ahead.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(CT) Ajith Fernando–Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings

4) Leave Vengeance to the Lord

In our hearts we must apply the principle of God’s “holy-love” as we think through the situation. The Bible is clear that our holy God punishes wrong. The reason we are to “never avenge [ourselves]” is because we “leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19). When wrong is done, something in us says, “That deserves to be punished.” That is a biblical sentiment. God has given government officials the authority to be agents of his wrath by punishing wrongdoers (Rom. 13:3–4). We must let justice take its course. But even if it doesn’t take place on earth, we know that it will at the final judgment.

The doctrine of judgment on earth and at the end of time is one of the factors influencing our response to the evil that occurs on earth. God gives us the freedom to take our hands off the revenge cycle. Instead we are told to do what we can do: We are to love our enemies and bless them (Rom. 12:17–21). Without a doctrine of judgment, we would be too bitter to forgive and show love to those who hurt us. Freed from bitterness, we can be agents of healing and reconciliation. This is especially true in a situation like Sri Lanka’s attacks which are being touted as revenge for the Christchurch mosque attacks. We can choose to stop the downward spiral of revenge where violence begets violence and huge destruction results.

Revenge is often considered the honorable response to harm in Sri Lankan culture. It comes out of the correct notion that sin must be punished, but misapplied to personal revenge. We must teach our people that personal revenge does not solve problems. We leave it to the state and to God to handle that. That is a hard lesson for our people to learn. But I believe that when it springs from the doctrine of God, there is a convincing base for people to latch onto. How important to teach these aspects of God’s nature to Christians before tragedy strikes!

Read it all.

Posted in Christology, Evangelicals, Sri Lanka, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Sri Lankan Accused of Leading Attacks Preached Slaughter. Many Dismissed Him.

Zaharan Hashim, a radical Muslim preacher accused of masterminding the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, never hid his hatred.

He railed against a local performance in which Muslim girls dared to dance. When a Muslim politician held a 50th birthday party, he raged about how Western infidel traditions were poisoning his hometown, Kattankudy.

There were, Mr. Zaharan said in one of his online sermons, three types of people: Muslims, those who had reached an accord with Muslims, and “people who need to be killed.”

Idolaters, he added, “need to be slaughtered wherever you see them.”

Mr. Zaharan has been described by Sri Lankan officials as having founded an obscure group with inchoate aims: a defacement of a Buddha statue, a diatribe against Sufi mystics.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

A Statement from Archbishop Ben Kwashi, following the Easter Sunday atrocities in Sri Lanka

Greetings to you in Peace.

Yesterday suicide bombers unleashed death and destruction as unsuspecting Sri Lankan Christians gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Together with those killed in hotels, the death toll has reached 310, with many more injured, and our hearts go out in prayer for all who have been caught up in these deeply traumatic events.

News of this atrocity came through just before I preached at All Souls Langham Place and let me repeat what I said then, “The resurrection of Jesus is a total defeat of death and of those who would want to use death to scare people off from faith in Jesus. His resurrection has made death powerless against all who believe in Jesus Christ.”

At our recent conference in Dubai, Gafcon resolved to stand with the Suffering Church and this will be a leading agenda item for our Primates Council as it meets in Sydney next week. Meanwhile, in this Easter week let us remember that the one who drew alongside two sad and discouraged disciples on the Emmaus road was the Risen Christ who yet still bore the wounds of the cross. By death he has destroyed death and he will be with us until the very end in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Risen Lord be with you!

 

Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Gafcon General Secretary

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Easter, Eschatology, GAFCON, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Theology

(NYT Op-ed) Are Christians Privileged or Persecuted? How Western liberalism’s peculiar relationship to its Christian heritage leaves non-Western Christians exposed

The murderous radicals who set off bombs and killed hundreds on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka chose their targets with ideological purpose. Three Catholic churches were bombed, and with them three hotels catering to Western tourists, because often in the jihadist imagination Western Christianity and Western liberal individualism are the conjoined enemies of their longed-for religious utopia, their religious-totalitarian version of Islam. Tourists and missionaries, Coca-Cola and the Catholic Church — it’s all the same invading Christian enemy, different brand names for the same old crusade.

Officially, the Western world’s political and cultural elite does its best to undercut and push back against this narrative. The liberal imagination reacts with discomfort to the Samuel Huntingtonian idea of a clash of civilizations, or anything that pits a unitary “West” against an Islamist or Islamic alternative. The idea of a “Christian West” is particularly forcefully rejected, but even more banal terms like “Western Civilization” and “Judeo-Christian,” once intended to offer a more ecumenical narrative of Euro-American history, are now seen as dangerous, exclusivist, chauvinist, alt-right.

And yet there is also a way in which liberal discourse in the West implicitly accepts part of the terrorists’ premise — by treating Christianity as a cultural possession of contemporary liberalism, a particularly Western religious inheritance that even those who no longer really believe have a special obligation to remake and reform. With one hand elite liberalism seeks to keep Christianity at arm’s length, to reject any specifically Christian identity for the society it aims to rule — but with the other it treats Christianity as something that really exists only in relationship to its own secularized humanitarianism, either as a tamed and therefore useful chaplaincy or as an embarrassing, in-need-of-correction uncle.

You could see both those impulses at work in the discussion following the great fire at Notre-Dame. On the one hand there was a strident liberal reaction against readings of the tragedy that seemed too friendly to either medieval Catholicism or some religiously infused conception of the West. A few tweets from the conservative writer Ben Shapiro, which used phrases like “Western Civilization” and “Judeo-Christian” while lamenting the conflagration, prompted accusations that he was ignoring the awfulness of medieval-Catholic anti-Semitism, and also that his Western-civ language was just a dog-whistle for white nationalists.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Easter, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(Crux) John Allen–Easter attacks on churches in Sri Lanka are tragic, but hardly surprising

Sadly enough, there’s now an ugly and utterly predictable dynamic on Easter Sunday: Somewhere in the world, full churches will be attacked and some number of Christians will die for no other reason than that they chose to attend services to celebrate what is supposed to be the faith’s great celebration of life.

Today, it happened in Sri Lanka, where, as of this writing, at least 138 people have been killed and more than 560 injured after coordinated bomb blasts hit a number of high-end hotels and churches across the country.

At St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, located in a heavily Catholic neighborhood north of Colombo known as “little Rome,” more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.

In all, three churches and three hotels were struck in what seemed a calculated attack on “foreigners” – both the sorts of foreign visitors who stay in four and five-star hotels, and faiths perceived as “foreign” by nationalists and extremists.

Read it all.

Posted in Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

‘Why Kill the Innocents?’ Sri Lankans Mourn Bombing Victims

The little room, like much of Sri Lanka, could hold no more grief.

All day Monday, through the steamy heat, mourners quietly stepped inside and paused in front of a sealed coffin containing what was left of Sneha Savindi Fernando.

Sneha was 11 years old and standing in line for communion at Easter Mass on Sunday when she was blown apart.

“Why did you leave me?” her grandmother cried, sitting in front of the coffin and rubbing its sides, the anguish tight in her hands. “There are so many bad people in the world. Why kill the innocents?”

It was a question all of Sri Lanka was asking.

The day after suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks on half a dozen hotels and churches across this island nation, Sri Lanka remained in shock. The death toll continued to climb, with the authorities saying the attacks had killed at least 290 people.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

A BBC Article on India’s General Election

But despite the massive mandate, the verdict on Modi’s performance has been mixed.

There have been some gains – more roads, rural works, cheap cooking gas for the poor, village toilets, a uniform sales tax, a promising health insurance scheme which could end up benefiting 500 million families, and a new bankruptcy and insolvency law.

But the economy is underperforming. India’s farms, where most of its people work, are beset by a crisis of low crop prices. Unemployment is rising, and a controversial currency ban ended up hurting the poor.

Socially, the BJP’s strident Hindu nationalism has left the country polarised and minorities nervous. India is in the grip of a fake-news epidemic, partly due to cheap phones and data. Some dissenters have been labelled as “anti-nationals” and thrown into prison.

Modi now faces another crucial general election….

Read it all.

Posted in History, India, Politics in General

(Christian Today) Situation for India’s Christians is ‘worsening year on year’+the Bharatiya Janata Party isn’t helping

After a steady decline in conditions for India’s Christian minority in recent years, there are fears that things may be about to get worse if the ruling BJP holds onto power in the forthcoming election.

Millions of Indians will cast their votes from 11 April to 23 May in the world’s largest democratic elections, but one pastor who asked to be unnamed for security reasons fears election rigging.

“People regret their choices of 2014. Where I live, most people don’t like the BJP at all,” the pastor told Open Doors UK.

“They shouldn’t win. But we are afraid that the elections will be rigged. Maybe the voting machines will be hacked or maybe people will be given money if they vote for the BJP.

“We, as pastors, were promised land and protection if we voted for them.”

Instead of land and protection, Christians have seen an increase in attacks since the BJP came to power in 2014.

Read it all.

Posted in India, Religion & Culture

(NYT) This Chinese Christian Was Charged With Trying to Subvert the State

In 2006, three Chinese Christians traveled to Washington to ask President George W. Bush for his support in their fight for religious freedom. One of them had converted to the faith only a few months earlier: Wang Yi, a 33-year-old lawyer from the southwestern city of Chengdu.

But Mr. Wang had already become such a prominent Christian that organizers made sure he went to the White House. A nationally known essayist and civil rights lawyer, he would soon found a 500-member church that was independent of government control, along with a seminary, an elementary school and even a group to aid the families of political prisoners — all illegal but which he accomplished by sheer force of will.

Today, Mr. Wang, now 45, is back in the spotlight, this time at the center of an intense crackdown on Christianity. His Early Rain Covenant Church and others like it are popular among China’s growing middle class and have resisted government control, testing the ruling Communist Party’s resolve to bring China’s churches to heel.

“He saw an inevitable fight with the government because of it trying to control the churches,” said Enoch Wang, a pastor based in the United States who has met Wang Yi many times. “He knows that sooner or later they’ll come for you and so there’s no point in trying to hide.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) After Mass Detentions, China Razes Muslim Communities to Build a Loyal City

In this old Silk Road city in western China, a state security campaign involving the detention of vast numbers of people has moved to its next stage: demolishing their neighborhoods and purging their culture.

Two years after authorities began rounding up Urumqi’s mostly Muslim ethnic Uighur residents, many of the anchors of Uighur life and identity are being uprooted. Empty mosques remain, while the shantytown homes that surrounded them have been replaced by glass towers and retail strips like many found across China.

Food stalls that sold fresh nang, the circular flatbread that is to Uighur society what baguettes are to the French, are gone. The young men that once baked the nang have disappeared, as have many of their customers. Uighur-language books are missing from store shelves in a city, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, that has long been a center of the global Uighur community.

Supplanting the Turkic culture that long defined large parts of Urumqi is a sanitized version catering to Chinese tourists. On a recent morning in the Erdaoqiao neighborhood, the once-bustling heart of Uighur Urumqi, nang ovens were nowhere to be seen—but souvenir shops sold nang-shaped pocket mirrors, nang bottle openers and circular throw pillows with covers printed to look like nang.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(ABC Aus.) Indonesia sees rise in number of self-proclaimed prophets promising to save the nation

It is a time of purported visions and miracles for tens of thousands of Indonesians, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation experiences a rise in the number of self-proclaimed prophets thanks to social media.

But the emergence of new religious movements claiming divine connections, which often draw on elements of Islam and Christianity, has been highly controversial in the increasingly conservative Muslim nation.

Several new religious leaders and their followers have already been prosecuted and imprisoned under the country’s strict blasphemy laws.

Al Makin, an Indonesian expert in new religious movements at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, said the movements had gained traction mainly due to increased exposure on social media and people seeking answers during periods of economic and political uncertainty.

“Their existence often stems from uncertainties surrounding an unstable political climate,” he said, referring to the widespread social instability after the fall of former president Suharto and the 1998 Asian financial crisis, which caused job losses and increased poverty.

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Posted in Indonesia, Religion & Culture

(CBS) “Record-breaking” Japanese preemie weighing as much as an onion at birth goes home healthy

A baby born in Tokyo weighing the same as a large onion has gone home healthy. The tiny tot weighed just 268 grams — under 10 ounces — when he was delivered at 24 weeks, reportedly after he stopped growing in the womb.

He was so small he fit in an adult’s cupped hands.

Keio University Hospital said the boy is believed to now hold the record for the smallest newborn boy to be discharged from a hospital in good health. The record was previously held by a boy born in Germany in 2009 weighing just 274 grams (9.6 ounces), the hospital said, citing a registry put together by University of Iowa for the world’s tiniest surviving babies.

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Posted in Children, Health & Medicine, Japan