Assign guilt for Sri Lankan bombings, Pope urges
POPE FRANCIS has urged Sri Lankan authorities to “let it be made clear” who was responsible for the attacks on several churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Day 2019. The attacks killed 269 and left more than 500 injured (News, 26 April 2019). The Pope made the comments on Monday to a gathering of Sri Lankan workers in Italy. Also present was a delegation of the families of victims, led by the RC Archbishop of Colombo, the Most Revd Malcolm Ranjith. Independent Catholic News reports that, in an audience with the Pope on Monday, Archbishop Ranjith alleged that there were “connections between certain political groups and the extremists who set off the bombs”. Sri Lankan police have formally identified nine bombers, all citizens associated with National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a Sri Lankan Islamist group with reported links to Islamic State.
Egypt frees Copts arrested after church protest
NINE Coptic Christians were released last Sunday after three months’ detention, it is reported. They had been arrested after protests in January demanding the rebuilding of their church, in the village of Ezbet Faragallah, in northern Egypt. It was burned down five years ago and demolished in 2021. According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the church had submitted a request for permission to rebuild, but has received no response. EIPR stated that the protesters faced charges of “participating in an assembly that endangers public peace, and committing a terrorist act with the aim of disturbing public security”. On 30 March, Amnesty International called for the villagers’ release, saying that the authorities had “for years ignored calls to rebuild the church, leaving around 800 Coptic Christians without a place to worship in their village”. The statement described the arrests as “shameful” and “ludicrous”. Sunday was kept by Coptic Christians as Easter Day.
Dioceses look to unite after property ruling
THE Episcopal Church in North Texas (under the Rt Revd Scott Mayer) is ready to unite with the diocese of Texas (under the Rt Revd Andrew Doyle) — both part of the Episcopal Church in the United States — one year after it was refused permission to appeal against a court ruling that the Episcopal diocese of Fort Worth, now part of the Anglican Church in North America, could retain property worth $100 million (News, 26 February 2021). The plan to unite the two dioceses, announced on 22 April, requires the approval of a majority of the Episcopal Church’s bishops and standing committees.
Additions to US persecution list recommended
THE United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the State Department add Nigeria, India, and Afghanistan, among others, to its list of “countries of special concern” for violations of religious freedom. The CEO of Release International, Paul Robinson, said in a statement on Tuesday that the countries had “earned their places on the list”. Last year, Russia was added to the State Department list, as recommended by the USCIRF’s annual reports since 2017. “The situations in Afghanistan, the Sahel and now the Ukraine, should indeed be a wake-up call to the world — and particularly to the Church,” Mr Robinson said.
Sudanese pastor and his assailant both jailed
THE charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that Stefanous Adil Kajo, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor, was convicted on Monday of “disturbing the peace” and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment after being attacked during a service in Al Haj Abdalla in eastern Sudan, on 10 April. His assailant, Ibrahim Kodi, was found guilty of the same charge. CSW report that the church had in recent years been subject to a campaign of harassment. CSW’s Founder President, Mervyn Thomas, said: “The charging and conviction of Pastor Kajo, who was the victim of an extremist attack in his place of worship, is a deplorable injustice. We call for an urgent review of this decision, and for his conviction and sentence to be quashed.”