Episcopalians protest against Alaskan oil plans
EPISCOPALIANS in the United States have repeated calls to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, after the Trump administration announced plans to sell drilling leases on part of the nearly 20 million-acre reserve to oil companies, the Episcopal News Service reports. The refuge, an important site for caribou births, is held sacred by the Alaska Natives.The Gwich’in nation, who are mostly Episcopalians, are one of the largest Native communities in Alaska. The executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Bernadette Demientieff, who also serves on the Church’s Task Force on Creation Care and Environmental Racism, said: “This administration has done nothing but disrespect the Indigenous peoples that have occupied these lands.” The Church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, the Revd Melanie Mullen, told ENS: “In this time of Covid-19 — and nationwide calls for racial justice — it is especially disturbing that our government is still ignoring voices and witnesses of Indigenous people.”
Iranian serves sentence — plus a year
AN IRANIAN Christian, Mohammadreza Omidi, has been released from prison more than a year after finishing his 24-month sentence for national security-related charges in July 2019, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports. Mr Omidi was one of four Christians arrested in Rasht on 13 May 2016 during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes, in which Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, Deacon Saheb Fadaie, and Yasser Mossayebzadeh were also arrested. In July 2017, they were found guilty of “promoting Zionist Christianity” and given ten-year sentences by Judge Ahmadzadeh, who is accused of overseeing miscarriages of justice and is subject to financial sanctions in the UK. In June, after an appeal, Pastor Nadarkhani’s and Deacon Fadaie’s ten-year sentences were reduced to six years, and Mr Omidi’s sentence was reduced to 24 months (News, 26 June). The chief executive of CSW, Mervyn Thomas, said that the men should ever have been imprisoned.
UN and partners launch Lebanon appeal
THE United Nations and its aid partners have appealed for £428 million to address the overwhelming needs in Lebanon, after deadly explosions in the capital of Beirut last month escalated the food crisis and poverty in the country (News, 5 August). Almost 180 people died, and more than 6000 were injured. The many casualties also placed hospitals already stretched by the impact of the coronavirus under severe strain, and the large quantities of grain destroyed in the blast increased concerns about food insecurity. Thousands were left homeless. The UN Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Najat Rochdi, said: “The scale of the loss from the Beirut explosions is so vast, it is likely every single person in Lebanon has been touched by this terrible event.” Money raised from the appeal will go towards food security, health, shelter, and education.
© TNS/PAToppled: A man on the roof of College Church, on the campus of Wheaton College, Illinois, in the United States, surveys the damage after the steeple was blown over by high winds in a severe storm on Monday of last week