News Update-September 2013

Damascus Pastor: 40 Percent of Congregation Has Fled the Country
A pastor from Damascus paints a sad picture of the situation in the Syrian capital, Charisma News reports.

"The situation is very grim," Pastor Edward says. "There is deep sadness and much stress and anxiety." According to the pastor, approximately 40 percent of the members of his church have left the country since the civil war in Syria started two and a half years ago. It's the reality churches in Syria now face; people that have financial means and contacts abroad often leave the war-torn country.

Edward knows that in his church, some members still are waiting for the opportunity to leave Syria. "They are still trying to find a place to go," he says. However, "we see new people coming to church. Many of the families that we visit and help with a monthly food supply come to our services now." Although there is no fighting going on in the central area of Damascus, it is a daily reality in several suburbs. "It seems that there is no end in sight," Edward says. "Christians are like all other people-concerned for their safety and the future of their children."

Religion Today Summaries

Suicide Bombers Attack Pakistan Church, Killing Dozens
Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside a historic church in Pakistan on September 22, killing 85 people and wounding another 140 in the deadliest-ever attack on the country's Christian minority.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing in the city of Peshawar, saying it would continue to target non-Muslims until the US stopped drone attacks in the country's remote tribal region.

The attack on All Saints Church, which also wounded 140 people, underlines the threat posed by the Pakistani Taliban at a time when the government is seeking a peace deal with the militants. The attack occurred as hundreds of worshippers were coming out of the church in the city's Kohati Gate district after services to get a free meal of rice.

"There were blasts and there was hell for all of us," said Nazir John, who was at the church with at least 400 other worshippers. "When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around."

Survivors wailed and hugged each other in the wake of the blasts. The white walls of the church, which first opened in the late 1800s, were pockmarked with holes caused by ball bearings or other metal objects contained in the bombs to cause maximum damage. Blood stained the floor and was splashed on the walls. Plates filled with rice were scattered across the ground.

The Daily Mail

Egyptian Christians Killed for Not Paying Jizya'
Muslims in southern Egypt killed two Christian men for failing to pay them protection money, CBN News reports. Muslims in the area are demanding that Christians pay them "jizya," a kind of tax that Islamic law requires religious minorities to pay Muslims, but the tax is so high many Christians simply can't afford it.

Voice of the Martyrs reported that a Muslim man demanded a Christian in a village in Assiut pay him nearly $1,500. The Christian sought help from local police but to no avail; when he failed to come up with the money, several Muslims went to his home and shot him and his cousin to death.

Religion Today Summaries

Non-Muslims Targeted in Deadly Kenya Mall Attack, Witnesses Say
Gunmen carrying grenades and automatic weapons attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi on September 21, leaving at least 30 people dead. Westgate Mall is an upscale shopping destination, popular with expatriates in Kenya's capital city.

The Red Cross has reported that 30 people have died in the attack, and a Kenyan government official says that at least 100 people are injured. One suspected gunman is reportedly dead after a clash with police.

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked militant group based in neighboring Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in which gunmen targeted non-Muslims. Journalist Martin Cuddihy of the Australian Broadcasting Corp was at the scene of the attacks. He reports that authorities are saying as many as 36 hostages are still being held by the gunmen inside the mall. Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman for the State Department, said on Saturday that Americans are among those injured in the attacks.

Kenyan police chief Benson Kibue told reporters, "We are treating this as a terrorist attack." Elijah Kamau was in the mall at the time of the shooting. He told reporters that non-Muslims were targeted by the attackers. "The gunmen told Muslims to stand up and leave. They were safe, and non-Muslims would be targeted," he said.

Christians comprise 83 percent of Kenya's population of 44 million people, with Muslims making up about 11 percent of the population.

Religion Today Summaries

Colorado Businessman Wins Latest Victory Against Contraceptive Mandate
A U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction in early September to a Colorado businessman challenging the contraceptive mandate of "Obamacare" in court, WORLD Magazine reports.

The owner of six senior care businesses, Steve Briscoe believes protecting unborn babies is part of his larger mission to value all life, both young and old. While he waits for his case to wind through the courts, Briscoe will not face fines for not offering contraceptives under his employee health insurance plan.

Religion Today Summaries

Henry Blackaby Goes Missing, Family Issues Urgent Prayer Request
Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God and many other books, is missing, Charisma News reports.

Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, blogged on September 20 about an emergency prayer relating to Blackaby's disappearance. "This morning we learned of an urgent prayer request for noted author and pastor Henry Blackaby, Rainer wrote. "Dr. Blackaby lives in the Atlanta area and has been missing since yesterday.

His son Richard tweeted this morning: "Please pray. Henry Blackaby has been missing since 4 p.m. Thursday. He is in black Lincoln without his diabetic medicine in Atlanta area." Rainer is asking his readers to join him in praying for Blackaby's safe return to his family and for strength for his wife, Marilyn, and his children and other family.

Religion Today Summaries

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