Watched over by French soldiers and police, Catholic pilgrims from around the world prayed together for healing and peace Monday at a grotto shrine in Lourdes where exceptional security greeted the spiritual travelers due to recent extremist attacks.
CHR Comments: The Feast of the Assumption of Mary was observed without incident. The article includes a brief account of the visions and miracles associated with Lourdes.
Source: Under heavy security, Catholic pilgrims visit Lourdes shrine – The Washington Post
The law will prohibit evangelism anywhere outside a church or religious site – including private homes and online – and those in breach of it will be fined.
CHR Comment: Russian Protestants are opposing the new restrictions of religious liberties that are part of an effort to curb terrorist activities. They believe the laws will prevent them from sharing their faith outside of specifically defined religious contexts. The bill has already passed through the Russian Duma and Federation Council (their congress) and could be signed into law. Church historian Lloyd Harsch notes that after the initial openness following the collapse of Communism, Russian policies have become more and more restrictive on Protestant church activities.
I’ve added a second story to this topic below.
Source: Russia: Evangelicals pray, fast and lobby Putin as severe restrictions placed on evangelism | Christian News on Christian Today
Assailants hacked a Hindu holy man to death Friday in northern Bangladesh and fled without anyone witnessing the attack, which police suspect was carried out by Islamist militants.
CHR Comment: The article describes the murder of eight minorities in this Islamic country. In some cases, Islamic militant groups claim responsibility. The fourth paragraph mentions a Christian grocer who was killed only two days before this latest attack.
Source: Hindu holy man hacked to death in Bangladesh
The genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks during Wold War I, many of them Christians, has been recognized by the German parliament in a move that prompted Turkey to recall its ambassador in anger.
CHR Comment: The first genocide of the 20th century took place from 1915–1917. As Christian-Muslim relations are strained these days by terrorist attacks and other reports of violence, the memory of the genocide during the First World War continues to cause tension.
Source: Genocide of 1.5 Million Armenian Christians Recognized by Germany, Turkey Throws Tantrum
A Philippine military spokeswoman says Christmas attacks by Muslim rebels against Christian communities in the country’s volatile south have left at least 14 people dead.
CHR Comment: Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters killed nine Christians in attacks on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Government forces learned that an attack was coming and repelled about 200 rebels in eight different attacks during the two days of fighting. The Philippine population is largely Roman Catholic but they have had continued conflict with Muslim terrorists on some Islands.
Source: 14 killed in Muslim rebel attacks in southern Philippines
A group of Kenyan Muslims on a bus attacked by Islamist gunmen protected Christian passengers by refusing to be split into groups, witnesses say.
CHR Comment: Many Muslims of Somali descent live in this area of Kenya, while the rest of the nation is rapidly becoming Christian. The article includes a list of attacks in Kenya, most of which are attributed to the Muslim terrorist group Al-Shabab.
Source: Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack – BBC News
Worshipers say they may be the last group of Christians in Gaza.
CHR Comment: Joblessness is causing many Palestinian Christians to leave Gaza and the West Bank. The article describes peaceful relations with Hamas Muslims but anger toward Israeli policies that restrict opportunities for Palestinians. The history is more complex and troubling than the article describes. The second link below explains how a Palestinian Christian, George Habash, was an early leader in terrorist acts during the 1970s, which stemmed from his Marxist views rather than his faith.
Source: After 2,000 years, Christians disappearing from Gaza
A Syrian priest held hostage for months by the ISIS terrorist group is certain his life was saved due to his interfaith work, despite being threatened with beheading by jihadists if he did not renounce Christianity.
CHR Comment: Mourad, a Syrian Catholic priest, was captured at the Mar Moussa monastery along with a fellow worker, driven to Raqqa, held prisoner in a bathroom, and urged to convert to Islam or die. He credits his efforts at dialogue with Muslims and compassionate attitude toward them as reasons why he was not executed. While a captive, he met c. 250 members of his parish who were likewise held as prisoners. After ministering to fellow captives for some time, he determined it was best for him to escape.
Source: Priest who survived ISIS: “My interfaith work saved my life’’ – The Washington Post
The president of Liberty University urged his students Friday to carry concealed firearms on campus, adding to diverse university rhetoric on the issue of gun control.
CHR Comment: Christian traditions differ significantly on the issue of bearing arms. For example, many Anabaptist groups are committed to pacifism. The Falwell family church, Thomas Road Baptist Church, is affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention. English Baptists have traditionally supported self-defense, the right to bear arms, and just war.
Source: Liberty University students urged to carry guns. Do other schools agree? – CSMonitor.com
The ISIS-inspired attack thwarted Tuesday was not the first time Pope Francis has been targeted by extremists.
CHR Comment: Four men from Kosovo were arrested for planning an attack. There were also statements from ISIS that the Vatican would be attacked.
Source: Pope Francis-Islamic State Plot: Four Arrested In Italy For Planning ISIS Attack On Pontiff Following Paris Terrorism