Sunday, August 18, 2013

Keep Victims of Religious Persecution in Prayers

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON D.C. (ANS) -- One of the greatest things about living in the U.S. is the freedom of religion granted under the Constitution's First Amendment.

Mark A. Kellner
Writing in the Washington Times, Mark A. Kellner reminds readers we can attend worship services at any church, synagogue, mosque, meeting house, temple or assembly, and promote our religion without too much hassle.

Not every place in the world is as fortunate, as ongoing headlines worldwide show.

The violent uprising in Egypt, as opponents of the current military-backed regime keep up their protests in the streets, has spilled over onto Coptic and other Christian churches.

Kellner says according to journalist Elizabeth Iskander Monier, writing at the "Egypt Unwrapped" blog of the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the Copts "have no cheek left to turn" in the face of persecution.

Copts are targets of Muslim Brotherhood protesters, Monier writes, because they welcomed the removal of President Mohammed Morsi.

In turn, she notes, churches have been burned, and a 10-year-old Coptic girl, Jessica Boulos, was reportedly shot as she left a Coptic church.

Kellner says Monier notes that these attack s, and others, have largely been ignored by global media outlets that, understandably, are trying to keep up with the overall instability and tumult in Egypt.

According to a transcript of his Martha's Vineyard remarks on the crisis, President Obama noted the situation involving the Copts.

"We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we've seen by protesters, including on churches," he said.

However, Kellner says, Egypt is far from the only place where people of faith are facing serious challenges in just trying to be faithful to their beliefs.

Unconfirmed reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say that Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio, 58, a Roman Catholic priest who disappeared in a rebel-controlled area of Syria on July 29, was killed by rebels linked to Al Qaeda.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying the report could not be confirmed.

Kellner says the fact that Dall'Oglio (who has spent much of the last 30 years working to restore an ancient church in Syria), disappeared during the fighting in Syria suggests how dangerous the Syrian situation is for all, but especially those who are part of minority religious groups there.

Also this week, news came out from North Korea concerning Kenneth Bae, an American citizen and missionary sentenced to 15 years in a prison camp.

Bae has been moved to a hospital from the prison camp, where he had been working eight hours a day as a farmhand. During his imprisonment, Bae, who has other health issues, lost 50 pounds and his condition was such that hospitalization was considered necessary.

In Seattle, Kellner says, family and friends have organized prayer meetings and petition drives to secure Bae's release.

Islamist Boko Haram guerrillas in northern Nigeria attacked several villages in Borno state on Aug. 10 and 11, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more, according to ASSIST News Service Founder Dan Wooding.

Wooding says the ongoing Boko Haram campaign, which previously was dir ectly largely at churches in the region as well as individuals going to or coming from houses of worship, has now expanded to mosques deemed unfriendly to the Boko Haram partisans.

These reports - and myriad others - underscore the huge challenge many people of faith face around the world.

Kellner says those who believe in, and support, religious liberty, can help by staying informed, praying and certainly lobbying government leaders here and abroad to respect the most basic of human rights; that of the freedom to follow the faith of one's choice, and to share belief freely.

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