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World news in brief

10 January 2020

REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Catch a cross: in an annual event, a group of men jump in the icy waters of a lake in Sofia, Bulgaria, to retrieve a wooden crucifix during a celebration of Epiphany, on Monday. At a similar ceremony in the Bosporus, Istanbul, it was reported that one swimmer lost consciousness and had to be treated by paramedics

Catch a cross: in an annual event, a group of men jump in the icy waters of a lake in Sofia, Bulgaria, to retrieve a wooden crucifix during a celebrat...


Nigerian pastor abducted by Boko Haram

THE chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, in Adamawa state, the Revd Lawan Andimi, has been seen in a video release by the terrorist group Boko Haram, now known as ISWAP, a week after having been declared missing in the wake of a raid in his town. In the video, sent to a Nigerian journalist, Mr Andimi speaks in Hausa and English, saying that he “is in the hands of God” and is being treated relatively well by the terrorists, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports. He urges the president of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, the Revd Joel Billy, to speak to governing officials to secure his release. “Don’t cry, don’t worry, but thank God for everything,” he said. The founder and chief executive of CSW, Mervyn Thomas, said: “We are deeply concerned by [the] abduction and call for his unconditional release.”


China: reported crackdown on unregistered churches

THE Chinese government is to implement new laws on religion in the country, putting pressure on unregistered Catholic and Protestant churches to register with the authorities, it has been reported. Estimates for the membership of unofficial or “house” churches range from 15 million to as many as 70 million. The new legislation, covering 41 topics on the “organisation, functions, supervision, and management of religious groups”, includes rules on teachings and rallies. Religious organisations must uphold the principles of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2018, the government banned youth ministries and online sales of the Bible, burned crosses, demolished churches, and forced at least six places of worship to close.


Thousands displaced after violence in Sudan

ABOUT 40,000 people have been displaced in the West Darfur State, in Sudan, in the past two weeks, after violent clashes erupted between communities in the capital of El Geneina, the United Nations reported on Tuesday. At least 54 people have died, and 60 people have been injured. Reports have also emerged of attacks on camps for internally displaced people, and the burning of homes. A spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said: “The conditions were dire, and most refugees were staying out in the open; food and water were urgently needed.” Shelter, food, water, health services, and non-food items were in short supply, he said, but “the situation in the affected area was currently calm and seemed to be stabilising.” In 2003, about 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million people were forced from their homes during the Darfur conflict between government militia and rebel groups. The former President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a military coup in April, nine years after he was charged with committing war crimes, including genocide.


Worker with 666 tax number updates his story

A MAN from Tennessee in the United States, Walter Slonopas, who left his job in a factory in 2013 after the number 666 appeared on his tax form, has said that the decision was a blessing. “I knew it was the devil’s mark, and I could not accept it,” he told Religion News Service this week. The number is described as “the number of the beast” in Revelation, and is sometimes referred to as the “Devil’s number” or mark. Mr Slonopas found a higher-paid job soon after he left, and the factory he previously worked in has since closed. “I got my blessing,” he said. He said that he did not believe that the issue over the number on his tax form played any part in his former employer’s closure.

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