Syria: Open Doors Delivers ‘Save Syria’ Global Petition at U.N., Sends Letter Sent to President Obama
On Tuesday on International Human Rights Day, Open Doors International spoke up for Christians in Syria, presenting a petition signed by 309,195 people from 99 countries as a result of its “Save Syria” campaign. The petition urged all those with influence and power to do everything possible to protect the lives, livelihoods and freedoms of all the people of Syria and in particular safeguard the future of the Christian communities. At the United Nations in New York, the day was filled with meetings, including the missions of the five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Lisa Pearce, deputy CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, was one of the members of the Open Doors delegation. She said: “It was humbling and deeply encouraging to feel that every signature on the petition was presented and represented, knowing that across the world ambassadors were getting the same message, hearing the voices of Christians in Syria through Open Doors colleagues.”
One significant meeting in New York was with the Syrian National Coalition. One of their representatives said: “It is very rare to see any kind of consensus on Syria, so to see a petition signed by so many people is beautiful.” She went on: “The coalition has to do more to make sure that the voice of the Syrian church is heard. I’m absolutely clear about that. The language of your petition is something that we support wholeheartedly.”
In the United States, Open Doors sent a letter to President Obama encouraging him to make Syria and especially the Christian community there a priority on his agenda. “I encouraged President Obama to make the on-going civil war a main focus,” says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. David Curry. “I also urged him to direct the U.S. government to do all it can to act for a peaceful solution to the crisis and secure greater protection of the life and liberty of members of religious minorities in Syria.”
Stephen Rand, Open Doors UK Advocacy Director, said: “The petition has helped us to amplify the voice of Christians in Syria. We will continue to make sure the voices of the Christians in Syria are heard whenever the future of Syria is under discussion; especially in Geneva next month. It has been a thousand days since this crisis began. We are working and praying there will be a real breakthrough for meaningful peace.”
Central African Republic: Three Pastors Killed in Increased Violence
The crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) is in danger of taking a purely religious form as Muslims and Christians kill one another. More than 400 people, including three pastors, have died in recent clashes in the capital city of Bangui. Secret killings are ongoing. Church leaders have been calling for peace, tolerance and forgiveness and have condemned all religious antagonism. “We live through carnage in CAR,” reports an Open Doors worker in Bangui. “Radio France International speaks of at least 450 dead, but in reality we speak of at least 700 dead. The Red Cross has not counted the people that have been slaughtered and thrown into the river or buried directly by relatives or by fishermen.
“In spite of the arrival of the French and the beginning of the disarmament, the killings continue. The war has become purely religious. Anti-Balaka defensive forces attacked the ex-Seleka and other Muslims first. This invited terrible retaliation against the Christians. The ex-Seleka and Muslim men women and children armed with fire arms and machetes went from house to house killing Christians regardless of their age. The streets of Bangui are littered with corpses. The Red Cross buried hundreds of bodies in mass graves.
“The streets are empty. I found one cyber cafe open and am taking the opportunity to send you this mail. Most people are hiding indoors. Some have fled into the bush and about 20,000 Christians fled to the church of Pastor Nicolas Grekoyame-Gbangou, the president of the Evangelical Alliance, because he is one of the religious leaders who always denounces the abuses of the ex-Seleka.”
Among those killed are three pastors. Pastor Raymond Doui, 46, of the Community of Independent Baptist Churches (CEBI) died Dec. 5 when Seleka gunned him down at his house in the northern suburb of Fondo. He leaves behind a wife and 11 children. Pastor Elisha Zama, 33, of the Evangelical Church of the Brethren and employee of the Central African Association for Translation was hiding with others at the Amitihospital in Bangui. On Dec 5 Seleka raided the hospital and opened fire on those inside. Many were killed, including several patients and Pastor Elisha. He leaves behind a widow and five children. Pastor Jean-Louis Makamba, 48, a pastor of the ELIM church in the Begoua North area of Bangui also died on Dec. 5. When the reprisal attack started, Seleka rebels entered the church compound that also contained Pastor Makamba’s home and shot dead the pastor and one of his sons. Pastor Zama leaves behind a widow and nine children. They have run away and are hiding because they have learned that Seleka are looking for them.
The Central African Bishops in a Dec. 7 letter reacted strongly to these events, condemning all politics that antagonize the people through religious adherence. They deplored the mixtures about anti-Balaka and their assimilation to Christian movements. They reiterate that all anti-Balaka are not Christians and all Christians are not anti-Balaka. And say that this is the same for ex- Seleka and Muslims.
Malaysia: Dispute Continues over Use of Word ‘Allah’— from World Watch Monitor http://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2013/12/2884459/
Malaysia’s escalating dispute over who has the right to use the word ‘Allah’ to describe God continues unabated. The country’s Court of Appeal ruled in October that only Malay Muslims were entitled to do so. The indigenous people of the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, who have been using ‘Allah’ in text and worship for more than a century, and long before the formation of Malaysia, have rejected what they call the “repugnant” verdict. This week more than 10,000 local Iban Christians are gathering in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, for an annual conference. A spokesman said they plan to stage a peaceful protest to remind the federal government to honor its commitment to religious freedom.
Pastor James Ganie, from the Gospel Baptist Church in Kuching, told The Malaysian Insider: “The large gathering has more to do with faith rather than the legal matter that is before the court, or even politics. But we will be making our stand again on religious freedom. The meeting will again ask the government to respect the Malaysia Agreement and the assurance of religious freedom.”
The court’s decision was also widely criticized abroad, including by mainly Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia, where religious authorities say that prohibiting the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims has no basis in Islam. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, Heiner Bielefeldt, has urged the Malaysian government to reverse its decision.
“Freedom of religion or belief,” he said, “is a right of human beings, not a right of the State. It cannot be the business of the State to shape or reshape religious traditions, nor can the State claim any binding authority in the interpretation of religious sources or in the definition of the tenets of faith.”
So far the Malaysian government, which voiced its support for the verdict, has not responded. It is also unclear whether the ban applies only to The Herald, the Catholic Church’s weekly newspaper at the center of the legal battle, or covers all aspects of worship. The Ruler of the State of Selangor reiterated that all Christian subjects are barred from using ‘Allah,’ even though sultans only have jurisdiction over Islamic matters.