Friday, August 30, 2013

Open Doors calls attention to Iraq

(Image courtesy U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons)
Iraq (MNN) ― Today it seems most of the Middle East is in crisis mode: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran.

Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA adds one more to the list.

"Iraq is not getting much attention, but we need to keep the spotlight there," he states.

A series of bombings in the capital city of Baghdad yesterday killed at least 70 people and wounded far more. It's the latest in a wave of turmoil that's engulfed the nation since 2013 started.

Over 4,000 civilians have been killed and 10,000 wounded since the year began, the BBC states in a recent article. July saw the greatest number of Iraqi causalities since 2008.

"The total number of Iraqis killed during July was 1,057 and 2,326 wounded in acts of terrorism," Dykstra states. "That is a new record, and not obviously good news for the people of Iraq and not good news for Christians who've lived in Iraq."

Rising sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims is to blame. Sunni militants say they're being ostracized by Iraq's Shi'ite government, which is holding the largest anti-insurgent campaign since 2011.

Conflict in Syria only serves to fan the flames.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Iraq's al-Qaeda branch, has joined rebels in the quest to overthrow Syrian President Assad. In turn, Assad is backed by Hezbollah--one of the region's largest terror organizations, and Iran, both of which are affiliated with Shi'ite Islam.

According to Dykstra, Iraqi Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place.

"That seems to be almost 'par for the course' in the Middle East nowadays," he says, explaining that Christians are "not only victims of the random violence, but they're also specifically targeted by Muslim extremists.

"You have the Sunnis and Shi'ites…and they have their backers. But the Christians have nobody."

Open Doors is combatting the loneliness and anxiety experienced by many Iraqi Christians. Through micro-loans, translation projects, and the distribution of Christian literature and Scripture, they're encouraging and supporting the Persecuted Church in this volatile nation.

Click here to see how you can help.

"The Christians in Iraq are very discouraged and obviously need our support and our prayers," Dykstra states.

One of the biggest needs among Iraqi believers, he adds, is trauma counseling.

"There's a whole generation of kids who are now young adults, who've been brought up in [these] terrible wars and persecution," says Dykstra.

See where Iraq lands on the Open Doors World Watch List.

"There are only about 330,000 Christians left in Iraq," Dykstra says. "10 years ago, over a million Christians.

"We really need to put emphasis on reaching out to them, especially in prayer."

Pray for Open Doors trauma counselors working with children and families affected by persecution. Pray for encouragement and healing for war-weary Christians in Iraq.

Pray "that they get the healing they need, and I'm talking about healing not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually," requests Dykstra.

Bombs, Bullying and Final Exams: the life of Christian students in Mosul

Even with violence increasing in their nation,
 Iraqi students are still expected to study.
 (Image courtesy Open Doors)
Iraq (MNN/ODM) ― In Mosul, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, kidnappings, bombings and targeted violence against Christians are reported frequently. These threats make it difficult to go from one place to another.

In the midst of this chaos and insecurity, Open Doors USA says hundreds of Christian students find their way to their university every day. Yusuf* says he’s praying "a hundred times" for safety. A few months ago, bombs exploded at his college.

“Where is the safety?” he asks. “Where are those who should protect us?”

In periods of increased violence, concentrating for exams isn’t easy.

“When the situation is very tense in the city, we still have to study," shares Malik, another Christian student. "It has a negative influence on our grades, but the exams are not deferred.”

Within the university, the atmosphere isn’t much better. Christians are being bullied and discriminated against because of their faith. Female students receive comments and threats about not wearing a headscarf.

Church elders of a village in Mosul were warned not to send girls to university; other female students were attacked because they weren’t wearing a veil.

“We just wish these years will pass fast,” says Kalam.

Sadly, it is not just the students that are giving their Christians peers a hard time.

“Teachers are saying bad things about Christianity in their lessons and participate in the discrimination and bullying also," explains Kalam.

Pray for Christian students in Mosul. Pray that they will be able to overcome the violence surrounding them. Ask the Lord to give them peace.

*The names of the people quoted in this article have been changed for security reasons.

Muslim Mob Injures Church Leaders, Choir Members in Nigeria

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ABUJA, NIGERIA (ANS) -- A Muslim mob with knives and iron rods injured several members of an Anglican church in Nasarawa state on Aug. 17 over a dispute about less than 1 cent in change, area Christians said.
According to a story by Morning Star News, three pastors, four elders and choir members of the St. James Anglican Cathedral were wounded in Lafia, capital of Nasarawa in central Nigeria, as they met for study and worship preparation.

Area residents said they got cuts on their heads and other parts of their bodies when about 30 Muslims attacked with motorcycle chains and wooden clubs, along with the other weapons.

An area member of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ in Lafia, Joshua Nuhu Kuju, told Morning Star News that a Muslim woman incited the Muslims to attack after she had an argument over payment with a young Christian man who runs the church's water borehole (a way to get water).

Property damaged at St. James Anglican Cathedral
 in Lafia, Nigeria. 
(Morning Star News photo)
"The Muslim woman sent her children to purchase water from the church's borehole, and then a misunderstanding over about 5 naira (less than 1 US cent)," he said. "The Muslim woman then went and invited some of her Muslim neighbors, who stormed the church and attacked the members of the church."

The assailants also damaged Bibles and broke chairs, he said.

Rev. Isaac Onwusongaonye of St. James Anglican Cathedral, of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), told Morning Star News that at about6 p.m., as he and six other church leaders were meeting for Bible study preparation and the choir was about to begin rehearsal, a church member told them that someone was arguing with the young man in charge of the church-run water borehole, Peter Aleku.

"When we enquired of the water seller what happened, he said that a girl, a (Muslim) neighbor, came and bought water worth 20 naira (1 US cent) and did not pay," Onwusongaonye said.

He added, "Shortly after, the girl's sister came and fetched water worth 5 naira an d paid 20 naira and demanded 15 naira in change. But the water seller told her that, for the change, to meet her sister who bought water earlier and did not pay."
The girl was upset and told her mother about the exchange, the clergyman said.

"The woman came and threatened that she had a son who was capable of demolishing the church, and that she would call him to come and fight the water seller," he said. "One of our sextons decided to give the woman the 20 naira, which the woman collected; the woman also slapped the water seller two times, yet she called her notorious son."

When the woman's son arrived, security guards prevented him from entering the church premises at two points - the borehole area and the main gate, Morning Star News reported Onwusongaonye said. One of the church leaders suggested they report the matter to police, but another suggested they wait for tensions to cool and instead talk with the family the next day, he said.

"As we resumed our Bible study, all we saw was a mob coming into the church through the main gate," Onwusongaonye added.

He continued, "This notorious boy went and called his gang, mostly butchers. They came with knives, clubs, motorcycle chains, iron poles, wood, etc. As they were terrorizing the church members, their fellow Muslim youths playing football at the field adjacent to the church jumped in through the fence and helped the gang. This gang beat the security men at the gate mercilessly with wood, chain and iron."

Seriously wounded, the security guards were rushed to the hospital, he said.

"They also slapped some of our elders who tried to appeal to them," Morning Star News reported Onwusongaonye said. "They even forcefully collected a handset from one of our pastors. I narrowly dodged a big stone thrown at me, and Ven Shigudu narrowly escaped from being stabbed."

The clergyman said intervention by police who were told about the attack saved the cathedral from burning down.

"After some minutes of terrorism, the boys left - some of them were asking w hy they did not destroy the church, especially the window glass," Onwusongaonye said. "So they later regrouped to come back for total destruction, but with the quick intervention of police from A Division, the boys ran as they saw the police van."

Police detained the ringleader's mother when the gang fled, releasing her only after the family later produced her son. He was arrested, and Morning Star News reported that at press time the case was still under investigation.

Many years ago the church had decided to create a water borehole and charge a minimal fee because of the community's difficulties in securing drinking water, Onwusongaonye said. Established in Lafia in the early 1940s, the church has about 300 members.

Nasarawa state is located in Nigeria's volatile middle belt, west of Plateau state, between the predominantly Muslim north and largely Christian south. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent.

Those practicing indigen ous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.

For more information visit

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Iran Rejects American Pastor Saeed Abedini's Appeal and Affirms Eight Year Prison Sentence

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ANS) -- The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which defends human rights and religious freedom, said an appeals court in Tehran has rejected the appeal of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, and refused to reduce his eight year prison sentence.

Saeed Abedini and his family.
Speaking in an ACLJ news release, Abedini's wife Naghmeh called the decision "devastating."
The ACLJ said it is now exploring all legal and governmental options available.

"While we remained hopeful that Iran would use its own appeal process to finally show respect for Pastor Saeed's basic human rights, again Iran has demonstrated an utter disregard for the fundamentals of human rights," said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, (which represents Abedini's wife and their two children) speaking in the news release.

Sekulow continued, "We are exploring all options with Pastor Saeed's family, including options in this country and abroad to bring more pressure on Iran from the U.S. and other countries around the world."

He added, "This legal decision also signals a new level of concern for Pastor Saeed's safety. By keeping the eight year prison sentence in place, Pastor Saeed now potentially faces additional beatings and abuse inside Evin Prison - treatment that has significantly weakened him during h is first year in prison."

"The news out of Iran is devastating to our family," said Naghmeh Abedini in the news release. "Our family will be consulting with legal counsel in Iran to determine the next course of action. The family could appeal the case to the Supreme Court in Tehran or plead for the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to intervene and pardon Pastor Saeed."
She added, "From past cases, we know that the decision to release my husband lies solely at the mercy of the Supreme Leader. It is imperative in the coming days, weeks and months that we remain vigilant to call for Pastor Saeed's release. This includes continuing to put pressure on Iran from the U.S. government and governments around the world."

Naghmeh Abedini also expressed disappointment in the U.S. government. "I am disappointed that as a country that was founded on religious freedom, our government has been awkwardly silent as an American citizen is wasting away in an Iranian prison because he chose to practice his God-given right to choose his religion."

She continued, "My husband is serving eight years in the notorious Evin Prison, and facing daily threats and abuse by radicals because he refuses to deny his Christian faith. And yet my President, President Obama, has not spoken a word about him."
The ACLJ said in its news release that the decision to reject Abedini's appeal came from Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals, and was handed down by a two-judge panel that refused to provide Abedini's Iranian attorney with a written copy of the decision.
One of the judges who issued the decision is Ahmad Zargar, who the ACLJ said was sanctioned by the European Union for issuing long term and death sentences for peaceful protesters.

Abedini, 33, was convicted of threatening the security of Iran because he chose to peacefully gather with other Christian believers.
On Jan. 27 2013, Judge Pir Abassi, a judge presently sanctioned by the European Union for his human rights abuses, found Abedini's Christian faith and activities amoun ted to a national security threat, and sentenced him to a prison term of eight years.

The rejection of Abedini's appeal comes just one month before the first year anniversary of his imprisonment.
The ACLJ said there will be prayer vigils in this country and around the world on Sept. 26 - a united effort to call attention to Abedini's plight, and an opportunity to advocate his release.

The ACLJ has been working in this country and abroad to secure his freedom, and says it has heard from nearly 620,000 people demanding his release.

Led by ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, the American Center for Law and Justice is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has affiliated offices in Israel, Russia, Kenya, France, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Court case hangs over Indonesian pastor

The legal case against Palti Panjaitan, who runs the HKBP Filadelfia church in the village of Jejalen Jaya, east of Bekasi, Indonesia, continues to drag on.

Panjaitan was accused by an Islamic leader of assaulting him on Christmas Eve of last year. The pastor has always maintained that he did not assault Abdul Aziz Bin Naimun and was in fact the subject of intimidation and death threats by his accuser.

However, the case goes on and the pastor was deemed too psychologically fragile to attend his latest hearing last month. The Asian Human Rights Commission wrote a letter to the Indonesian national police on August 22 imploring them to drop all charges against the pastor and questioning the logic of the local police.

“With no evidence to support the case against Rev. Panjaitan, we are questioning the legal and moral reasoning of your officers at Bekasi District Police in being so persistent in this case,” AHRC wrote.

This position was seconded by Panjaitan’s lawyer, Thomas Tampubolon, who said at a July 29 press conference that there was no case to answer.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Impunity Said to Abet Persecution of Christians in Nigeria

National Christian leader calls Islamic extremist assaults 'genocide'

By Dan Wooding, who was born in Nigeria
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

ABUJA, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Impunity for terrorists and state-sponsored discrimination against Christians in northern Nigeria has led not to sectarian war but to "genocide," the general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) told Morning Star News (

Boko Haram terrorists are tragetting Christians
Echoing a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asserting this week that lack of prosecution encourages violence in Nigeria, the Rev. Musa Asake said yesterday that a climate of impunity had led to continued attacks by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and ethnic Fulani herdsmen on Christians in the northern part of the country.

"There is no prosecution of those who kill, and this has encouraged these Boko Haram members to continue to bomb Christian areas, while Fulani herdsmen continue to attack and kill Christians in rural areas of northern part of this country with impunity," Musa said.

"From our records, day-in-day-out, Christians in the north are under an unprecedented siege by various groups of well-armed, roundly trained and heavily funded Muslim groups bent on expressing their hate against Christians and the Christian faith through mindless, mass murder of men, women and children."
Christian villagers burying hundreds of bodies in mass graves after another massacre in Nigeria

According to the Nigeria Correspondent of Morning Star News, a pastor with the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Asake said the systematic killing of Christians in northern Nigeria constitutes genocide.

"There is no war in the north - what we have is genocide against people of the Christian faith," he said. "The situation demands urgent action, if we are not to descend into a state where every man is to [fend for] himself."

In a report entitled "Boko Haram's Religiously Motivated Attacks" issued on Monday (Aug. 19), USCIRF asserted that the Nigerian government's "toleration of communal, sectarian violence has created a permissive environment conducive to further violence and a culture of impunity."

The reports states, "Nigeria has the capacity to address communal, sectarian and Boko Haram violence by enforcing the rule of law and making perpetrators accountable through the judicial system, and not relying solely on a counterterrorism strategy involving the security services.

"Such an approach would help Nigeria realize lasting progress, security, stability, and prosperity as a democracy."

A Christian women was slain at the side of the road by extremists
The story went on to say that the United States can play an important role in encouraging and increasing the Nigerian judiciary to prosecute, the report states. At the same time, the U.S. government needs to recognize the religious elements in Boko Haram's ideology and the sectarian aspects of the violence, USCIRF says.

"Acting on such an understanding would better position the United States to engage with both the Nigerian government at all levels and key religious leaders who view the violence partly through a sectarian lens," the report says. "The United States also should do more to encourage and support the Nigerian government's efforts to provide additional security personnel to protect northern Christian minorities and clerics and Muslim traditional rulers who denounce Boko Haram attacks, and consider creating a witness protection-like program."

USCIRF documented at least 50 Boko Haram assaults on churches that took place between Jan. 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013, resulting in the deaths of 336 people. In addition, USCIRF reports 31 separate attacks on Christians or southerners perceived to be Christian, killing at least 166 persons; 23 targeted attacks on clerics or senior Islamic figures critical of Boko Haram, killing at least 60 persons; and 21 attacks on "un-Islamic" institutions or persons engaged in "un-Islamic" behavior, killing at least 74.
Boko Haram victims being loaded onro a truck in Nigeria
The commission noted that on Jan. 2, 2012, Boko Haram called on all Christians and southerners, presumed to be Christian, to leave northern Nigeria within three days or face death. In the following week, more than 30 Christians were shot to death.

"Boko Haram continues to target and kill individual Christians and southerners," the USCIRF report states, noting among them the Nov. 25, 2012 shooting deaths of a Christian couple and their son in Kano, Kano state; the Dec. 1, 2012 slitting of the throats of Christians in attacks on four churches; and the May 14 slaying in Maiduguri, Borno state of the Rev. Faye Pama Musa, secretary of the Borno state CAN. On July 30, in Kano, four bombs exploded in the Christian area of Sabon Gari, killing at least 45 persons and damaging two churches, the report notes.

Citing "continued Muslim-Christian violence" as well as Boko Haram murders, the USCIRF report states that religion has become an increasingly key factor, "as much of the violence results from the misuse of 'faith' to foster political, economic, and/or ethnic discord, thereby elevating religious identifications and transforming violence in Nigeria's north and Middle Belt into religious conflicts."

Morning Star News goes on to say that Christian leaders in the country assert that the vast majority of "sectarian violence" is Muslim aggression that Nigeria's Islamist media portray as Muslim-Christian clashes. They say that in the rare instances of impoverished rural Christians coming into possession of weapons - in contrast with outside Islamic terrorist groups heavily arming Nigerian Muslim extremists - Christians use them only in self-defense.

Asake said oppression of Christians includes discrimination and deprivation of rights.
Survivors of a mass killing at a Christian school where students were burned alive by terrorists
"While the preaching by Christians is restricted to church premises in the core northern states, Muslim clerics are free to preach hateful and inciting sermons with no hindrance," he said.

Asake lamented that Kano, Yobe, Borno, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa and Katsina states have banned teaching of Christian Religious Knowledge, a subject Nigeria had approved to be taught in high schools alongside Islamic Religious Knowledge.

"In the past 13 years, some of the governments in these mentioned states have refused to grant new building permits to churches or give approval for the renovation or expansion of churches," he added. Some pastors have been given six months to vacate their church sites, he said.

"Authorities in the affected villages gave a six-month ultimatum to pastors of the affected churches to quit the churches or face the consequence," he said. "For instance, a Muslim leader, one Adamu Mohamed Dahiru, ordered that pastors should not rebuild their churches but to quit the areas within six months and find somewhere else to worship. This is contrary to the spirit of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guarantees every Nigerian the rights to association and worship."
Converts from Islam are especially targeted, he said.

"Any Muslim that converts to Christianity in these northern Nigerian states is declared an apostate and faces severe persecution in flagrant violation of his free choice of religion," Asake said. "Indigenes of these states who are Christians are treated as inferior and suffer untold injustice, oppression, and cannot rise beyond certain levels in the states' public services, no matter how educated they are."

Report: 42 churches attacked in Egypt

Destruction of Egypt's Christian community.
 (Images courtesy 8thirty8/Facebook)
Egypt (MNN) ― The violence in Egypt could be considered "historic." It silenced a church for the first time in 1,600 years.

Security issues following last week's rioting forced officials to consider the risks of a large gathering of people.

At the same time, a scholar at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom was quoted by The Christian Post as saying that last week's attacks on Christian churches and believers in Egypt were the worst in 700 years. Most of the violence seemed to be concentrated in southern Egypt in a 24-hour time frame.

Human Rights Watch, an international human rights group, visited 11 sites in Minya city and Bani Suef, where last week's attacks took place. Their investigation took note of attacks on at least 42 churches (though several ministries working in the region cite as many as 60 churches), as well as those on dozens of Christian institutions, schools, homes, and business owned by Christians. Their conclusion: this was an intimidation campaign thought to be waged by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

In their new report, HRW accused authorities of being "largely absent or failed to intervene" when churches or properties come under attack. While authorities did little to stop the violence, now the military-backed government is trying to capitalize on the church burnings to paint the Brotherhood as terrorists.

The wave of attacks also included drive-by shootings, kidnappings, destruction of church buildings and Christian-owned property, and now lethal shootings. Unidentified vandals marked church buildings and Christian-owned homes and businesses declaring, "Egypt is Muslim, not Christian." During the rampage, many of the same buildings were destroyed.

AMG International has some quiet work in Egypt. President and CEO Tasos Ioannidis says the trouble has been disruptive for AMG ministry partners; they have to keep a low-profile. "The best thing to do is just avoid being identified at this point because a lot of them will be targeted if they are recognized as members of the Christian community."

Just how volatile is it? He says in the report they got this week from their partner, "There was a news story about a taxi driver who was pulled over because he had a cross hanging from the mirror of his car: he was killed, and the taxi was destroyed."

Ioannidis goes on to explain that "the Christians are being blamed for a lot of what is happening right now from the Muslim Brotherhood. They are being targeted, so our co-workers are trying to just avoid situations where they would be in danger. There is a lot of property damage, but property can be rebuilt."

According to The Washington Post, a high-ranking Western official (who spoke on condition of anonymity) doubted the Muslim Brotherhood had orchestrated the assault, blaming vigilantes instead. However, when that came up, Ioannidis disagrees. "From our people on the ground, they are clear that the violence is coming from the Muslim Brotherhood. They see that as being part of their effort to stay in power to control the situation in Egypt."

Still, the Gospel is present throughout Egypt. Even though the voices of some of the churches have been silenced, it's temporary. It's also just one small part of the larger body of Christ. AMG ministry partners haven't given up hope, but they need the protection of an army to keep going forward. Ioannidis sums it up this way: "This is a very dangerous time for them, so they need God's protection. The first thing to do is pray for them daily, and pray that God keeps them safe."

If the paradox of persecution still holds true, as historic as the violence is in Egypt, so will be the new believers on the other side of the turmoil. Will you add your voice to the growing chorus?

A Muslim cleric stirs up trouble

Written on the walls in southern Egypt:
 "Love your enemies, we will pray fervently."
(Image courtesy 8thirty8/Facebook)
Egypt (VOM) ― Christians in Egypt today are experiencing increased attacks against them in conjunction with the government's attempt to disperse two pro-President Morsi camps calling for his re-instatement. At least 250 people have been killed and 1,000 wounded during the raid.

Egypt has declared a month-long state of emergency after scores of people were killed and more wounded during the protests and raid earlier this month.

Forty church buildings have been attacked and set on fire. Three of the churches were in Minya, two in Fayoum, and one in Sohag. At the same time, Christian-owned businesses in Sohag and Assuit were targeted by radical Muslims. A convent called Al Raai Al Saleh in Suez was also set on fire.

In the midst of the chaos, Egyptian Christians have still seen the hand of God at work. According to a worker with Voice of the Martyrs, the Good Shepherd Monastery in Suiz city was surrounded by a mob of radical Muslim Brotherhood members earlier today. The monastery was full of women and children.

Miraculously, everyone was able to flee to safety as the monastery was attacked and burned down.
Sources report that Mohammed El Beltagy, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said "operations against Christians will start now." The Muslim Brotherhood routinely threatens Christians, chanting and protesting against them. A VOM worker said that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders are seeking to disrupt the national unity by creating sedition between Muslims and Christians.

These recent attacks against Christians are not the only ones that have occurred in the past weeks. In another church on Aug. 3, hundreds of Morsi supporters surrounded a church in Sohag and fixed al-Qaeda's flag on the church. In Menia city the same day, over 50 shops and homes owned by Coptic Christians were burned and looted by radical Muslims. Over 20 people were injured in those attacks.

In July, two Christians were killed in northern areas of the Sinai Peninsula. On July 18, two churches were attacked during the funeral procession for two Muslim Brotherhood members. In the Luxor province, the newly-appointed head of police is suspected of intentionally failing to respond to an incident on July 5 in which four Christians were killed.

In response to the declared emergency, the government is enforcing a curfew in eleven different cities from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Christians hope that the worst of the violence has passed.

Egyptian brothers and sisters request prayer that an effective rule of law and order will be established to benefit all citizens, and that those affected by the violence will know the healing touch of Jesus. The Voice of the Martyrs is continuing to actively monitor the situation in Egypt and will provide assistance as needed.

Italian priest still unaccounted for in Syria

Fr. Dall’Oglio reported abducted last month, now presumed dead

Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio, pictured in his native Italy in 2012.
Conflicting reports are emerging about the whereabouts and welfare of an Italian Jesuit priest who went missing almost one month ago.

Reuters reported on July 29 that Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio had been abducted by Islamists with links to al-Qaeda in the northern Syrian city of ar-Raqqah, but the Vatican would not confirm the news.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported last week that the priest had been killed, but retracted its statement on Monday, Aug. 19.