Assyrian Christian Hostages Held for Ransom

The Islamic State released 10 Assyrian Christian hostages Tuesday night in the Tel Temir town in Hasakah province, northeastern Syria, but over 150 remain captured and threatened with death.

CHR Comment: Those released seem to be persons who could not easily be held in captivity (sick and elderly). The captors seek millions of dollars in ransom money. Terrorist groups use these methods as a form of fundraising.

Source: ISIS Releases 10 Assyrian Christian Hostages; Over 150 Remain Captured

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Pope Francis Visits Ugandan Shrine Amid Gay Rights Debate

Pope Francis traveled to Uganda’s holiest shrine on Saturday, paying tribute to 19th century Christian martyrs killed for their faith.

CHR Comment: The 47 Ugandan martyrs were burned by King Buganda Mwanga II. One issue was the king’s homosexual advances toward boy pages in his court. Martyr Charles Lwanga was killed for trying to protect these boys. The story of this martyr intersects with current issues of homosexuality. Uganda has passed strong laws against homosexual acts, though western officials have regarded such laws as repressive.

Source: Pope Francis Visits Ugandan Shrine Amid Gay Rights Debate – NBC News

Immigration History and the Current Discussion of Syrian Refugees

A wave of migrants from the Mediterranean meets a hostile reception from many Americans. The migrants are seen as alien in religion, culture, politics, law. So different in fact that some Americans argue that they can never be assimilated. They are the Italians, in the 1890s.

CHR Comment: The article uses the example of Italian Catholic immigration to predominantly Protestant America in the nineteenth century to argue for changes in attitude toward Syrian immigrants today. Americans at that time were afraid of Sicilians and mafia due to acts of violence. The comparison seems inexact since the Sicilians weren’t killing people for religious reasons.

Source: A brief history of America’s hostility to a previous generation of Mediterranean migrants — Italians | Public Radio International

How New Yorkers and Parisians Reacted Differently to Attacks on Their City

One priest who helped victims of the Paris attacks remembers his own experience helping communities in New York after 9/11.

CHR Comment: Rev. Jean-Christophe Bieselaar was a priest serving in New York City in 2001 and currently serves as a chaplain in Paris. He describes how Americans look to the Lord as a refuge in times of crisis whereas the French tend to ask why God allows terrible things to happen. New York churches were full in 2001, with people standing in line to enter. Church attendance in Paris has jumped but the response is not nearly as great as was seen in New York.

Source: How New Yorkers and Parisians reacted differently to attacks on their city | Public Radio International

Refugee Resettlement Process Leaves Syrian Christians in the Cold

President Obama said Monday there should be no religious test for refugees fleeing the crosshairs of a bloody Syrian civil war and the expanding reach of ISIS, but critics contend the current refugee placement process is rigged against Christians and the administration has turned a blind eye to the bias.

CHR Comment: Christians are not going to the United Nations refugee camps that would allow them to apply for asylum since those camps include groups that would persecute Christian refugees. As a result, fewer Christian refugees are accepted into the United States. According to reporter Cody Derespina, even though Christians make up 10% of Syrian refugees, Christians only represent 1.6% to 3% of refugees granted asylum since the civil war started in 2011.

Source: Refugee resettlement process leaves Syrian Christians in the cold | Fox News#.VlJvt2Az9g4.email

Christian Churches Growing in Indonesia Despite Muslim Threats

When a mob of Muslims swooped on a little church deep in rural Aceh in Indonesia this month, the local police were nowhere to be seen, although they had received warnings of a possible attack.

CHR Comment: The article points out that the Christian population of Aceh Singkil province has grown from 6% to 11% since 2000. That is a substantial change, which perhaps explains why Muslims, such as the Islamic Defenders Front, are growing more violent. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, has a Christian governor. Christians and Muslims intermarry and convert to one another’s religions.

Source: In Indonesia, minorities under threat from Muslim hardliners

Christians Facing “Indonesian Jihad”

If you look to the left as your plane approaches the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport near Jakarta, one can easily see the 153-foot Christ Blessing statue in off in the distance in Manado City.

CHR Comment: Christians in the Aceh region face opposition from the Muslim majority. The region is governed by Sharia law. In October a group of Muslim’s carrying axes and machetes attacked a church in Suka Makmur. 8,000 Christians were “displaced”; one person, thought to be a Muslim attacker, died from a gun shot. Tensions are increasing in the capital, Jakarta, as Christians from outlying areas move into the city to find work. Attempts to start churches are being violently opposed or stopped through prejudicial regulations.

Source: Christians facing ‘Indonesian jihad’ as churches burned on imams’ orders: report | Fox News#.Vkc4Ujgm4rg.email

Christians among Troops that Retake Hol, Syria

Kurdish Peshmerga forces pushed into the strategic town of Sinjar in northern Iraq, and a coalition of Arab, Christian, and Kurdish rebel factions recaptured another town from the militants across the border in Syria on Friday.

CHR Comment: Christian troops were among those who participated in the liberation of Hol, Syria. They are part of the Democratic Forces of Syria, which formed in mid-October, 2015.

Source: Kurdish forces retake towns in Iraq, Syria; dealing double blow to ISIS – CSMonitor.com