Vatican expresses solidarity after attack on Iraqi PM
POPE Francis has expressed his solidarity with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, after an attack on the prime-ministerials residence, on Sunday, Vatican News reports. An explosive-laden drone injured seven of Mr Al-Kadhimi’s bodyguards, but he was unhurt. No group has claimed responsibility. A telegram signed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said that Pope Francis “wishes me to convey his prayerful closeness to you and your family, and to those injured”. He condemned the “vile act of terrorism” and expressed the hope that the Iraqi people would be “confirmed in wisdom and strength in pursuing the path of peace through dialogue and fraternal solidarity”. Pope Francis visited Iraq in March (News, 5 March).
Where can we worship, ask jailed Iranian Christians
IRANIAN Christians serving prison sentences have made video appeals to their government, as part of a new campaign, #Place2Worship, launched this week by a coalition of charities, which include Open Doors, Article18, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Release International. Babak Hosseinzadeh and Behnam Akhlaghi were in a group of nine members of a house church who were arrested in 2019. They were sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “acting against national security through promoting Christian Zionism”. Last month, while out of prison on furlough, they recorded messages calling on the government to explain where they could worship after their release. They also wrote a joint letter with Saheb Fadaie, a pastor serving a six-year prison sentence (News, 14 July 2017). “If I am told, ‘We respect your faith, we respect your beliefs, and the only problem we have with you is that you attend a house-church,’ my question is, If this respect truly exists, then where should I attend a church after my release?” Mr Akhlaghi asked in his video.
Parliamentarians condemn Cuban crackdown
A STATEMENT condemning the Cuban government’s continued targeting of religious leaders, after nationwide protests that began in July (News, 16 July), has been issued by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief. It says that two pastors, Yéremi Blanco Ràmirez and Yarian Sierra Madrigal, were imprisoned incommunicado for two weeks and then “forced to sign a legal document justifying their arrest and imprisonment in the case of potential future crimes, including participating in unauthorised protests or doing anything interpreted as critical of the communist system”. It also draws attention to the case of a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Castor José Álvarez Devesa, who was “beaten and detained incommunicado”, and has been “targeted with mob-led verbal attacks and vandalism of his parish home”. The Revd Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo remains detained, facing “trumped-up criminal charges”. The statement calls on the UK Government to “raise human-rights abuses with the Cuban Government”.
‘Bandits’ seize worshippers at Kaduna Baptist church
AT LEAST 100 Christians were abducted by armed kidnappers who stormed a service at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Kakau Daji, in Kaduna State, Nigeria, on 31 October, Open Doors reports. One worshipper was killed. The charity’s sub-Saharan spokesperson, Jo Newhouse, said last week: “This kidnapping is a shocking example of the audacity of the so-called bandits and the impunity that is escalating, seemingly without bounds, in Nigeria. The government is grossly failing its citizens in this matter, and the continuing lawlessness is creating an ideal breeding ground for extremism.” She called for “fervent prayer for the release of the church members, and that the Lord will use this situation to bring a breakthrough in this situation”.