By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– BosNewsLife’s Dec 9-Dec 23 news coverage was dominated by reports on Christians and Jewish people clinging to their faith amid shootings, a changing political environment, and at least some justice for victims of what was Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.
In Romania, Orthodox believers were among those hoping for a peaceful political transition in the former Communist nation as official results showed December 10 that Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s center-left alliance won a clear victory in parliamentary polls with 57 percent of the vote.minated by reports on Christians and Jewish people clinging to their faith amid shootings, a changing political environment, and at least some justice for victims of what was Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.
The outcome puts him in a strong position in an ongoing power struggle with the rightist president President Traian Basescu who initially refused to reappoint him, but later backed down, as the country faces a major economic crisis.
Yet, in India, Christian voters are increasingly unable to change their government’s ways. Pastors and other Christians in a volatile area of India’s western state Maharashtra, for instance, fear for their lives after Hindu militants reportedly attacked worship services, encouraged by police and local authorities.
The India-based Catholic-Christian Secular Forum (CSF), a major advocacy and aid group, told BosNewsLife that tensions have risen in the town of Malvan since some 200 Hindus opposing Christian conversions targeted a December 2 prayer meeting of a house church.
It is viewed by church watchers as a widening trend in the heavily Hindu nation of 1.2 billion people, where nationalist Hindu groups oppose the spread of Christianity.
Yet sometimes, even in this turbulent world, justice is seen as being done. A United Nations court sentenced former Bosnian Serb general Zdravko Tolimir to life imprisonment for crimes committed during the Balkan war in the mid-1990s, including his involvement in killing thousands of Muslims.
After more than five years in detention, the 64-year-old Zdravko Tolimir was told he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Judges at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague, voting 2 to 1, found him guilty of playing a key role in the massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces captured the town in 1995. It was Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.
Yet, it isn’t always massive killings that shock. Back in Asia, Christians in Pakistan were mourning the death of an elderly Swedish missionary who was shot by a gunman while doing Christian work in the country.
On December 13, authorities and her church confirmed that Birgitta Almeby, 71, passed away overnight in a Stockholm hospital, where she had been treated for her wounds.
Islamic militants are believed to have been involved in killing Almeby, who led the Full Gospel Assembly charity, coordinated a church boarding school for orphaned girls in Lahore and other aid projects in Pakistan for nearly 40 years.
In Central Asia Christians were under pressure too. On December 14, news emerged that devoted Christians in autocratically ruled Kazakhstan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan face church closures and state control over Christian materials amid a fresh crackdown by authorities on faith groups in the region.
People seeking peace are victims too. Take Africa. The governor of Nigeria’s troubled northern Kaduna state, who was known for promoting reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, was with five other people in a helicopter crash, his party said Saturday, December 15.
Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa and former national security adviser General Owoye Azazi were among the six people who died when the helicopter came down in Bayelsa state, announced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He leaves behind a state known for violence against Christians. The Islamist militants of Boko Haram have frequently targeted Kaduna churches as part of a campaign to drive Christians away and establish an Islamic state.
Christians were also among mourners further away in Newtown, Connecticut. Yet they saw their prayers interrupted when they were evacuated at a Roman Catholic church as a bomb threat was reported by officials during services at the church, about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the site of a school shooting where 20 children were killed.
State troopers, police and ambulances were on the scene at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, reporters said Sunday, December 16. Though the all-clear was later given without an apparent explosive found, the incident underscored that life has changed in this previously mainly peaceful family friendly town of 27,000 people.
The latest scare came while a Jewish child was identified as the youngest of the 26 victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Newtown. Noah Pozner, a Jewish first-grader like all of the children killed at the school on Friday, had turned 6 on November 20, reported the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
Amid the devastation, Christians and Jews were able to worship. That isn’t easy in Uzbekistan. BosNewsLife reported on December 17 that police raided a group of about 80 Protestant Christians who were on on a holiday together to learn more about their Christian faith, after an earlier crackdown on an evangelical church.
Authorities charged four members of the holiday makers for involvement in an unauthorized Christian gathering at the Simurg (Phoenix) resort, located in Bostanlyk District of Tashkent Region around capital Tashkent, rights activists said.
Local police defended the December 1 raid, saying in published remarks that people must worship “only in registered places specifically set up for religious purposes.”
Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, a young Kyrgyz girl is forced to work in a sewing workshop after being tortured by her parents in Kyrgyzstan because she converted to Christianity, well-informed investigators said December 18.
The troubles began when the girl “accepted Jesus [Christ]” as her Lord and Savior “during a church meeting” despite opposition towards Christians in this heavily Islamic nation, explained aid and advocacy group Open Doors.
Her parents “wanted her to recant and renounce her faith in Christ, so they began to beat her systematically till she lost consciousness.” Yet the girl, who was wrongly identified as “Almas” amid security concerns, “did not give in”, added Open Doors.
“It was winter when all of this happened, so her parents put her into a cold room and kept her there for several days. Still they were unable to break her spirit,” said Open Doors, which is in close contact with local believers.
Despite the difficulties church groups are involved in providing aid to those in need in Eastern Europe. For many that help comes to late.
On December 19 news emerged that over 100 people already died this month due to extreme winter weather crippling much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. That death toll would later climb to at least 220, many of them homeless people.
In Ukraine, where many people died, there was some hopeful news: A least one woman reportedly gave birth to healthy twins while being stranded in her car. Unable to reach her, doctors instructed her husband via a mobile phone how to help his wife.
Though that birth was arguably inspiring, not all Christian families are able to smile this Christmas.
The U.S. State Department says it is in contact with the family of an Iranian-American pastor who activists say is jailed and mistreated for his Christian faith in Tehran.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday, December 20, that officials were “aware of the case,” but gave no further details citing “privacy considerations.”
Rights activists told BosNewsLife that the 32-year-old pastor, Saeed Abedini, has been held since late September after being arrested while visiting family.
Yet, there is still time to rescue him from prison as the world didn’t end December 21. Christian Maya looked on in wonder at the invasion of foreign tourists to ancient cities in southern Mexico and Central America where they expected the world to end based on ancient Maya predictions.
“We don’t believe it,” said Socorro Poot, 41, a housewife and mother of three in Holca, a village about 25 miles (40 km) from Mexico’s famed historic site of Chichen Itza. “Nobody knows the day and the hour. Only God knows,” she told Reuters news agency.
December 21, 2012, marked the end of a 5,125-year cycle in the Maya Long Calendar, an event some
scholars said could be interpreted as a kind of Armageddon for the Maya.
Devoted Christian say however that the Bible makes clear this earth will last at least another 1,000 years after Christ establishes His Kingdom here, which has not yet happened.
That’s a faith shared by Iranian believers. As Christmas approached, Iranian Church leaders urged prayers for Christians in Iran amid concerns authorities will raid more house churches and detain believers over the Christmas and Western New Year period.
The appeal came after a letter was released of jailed Pastor Behnam Irani, 41, who activists say may not survive the remaining five years of his prison term on what that they call trumped-up charges” of “crimes against national security”.
Iranian Christians have told BosNewsLife that he was previously beaten by fellow inmates and guards of the Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj city, one of the toughest jails in the country, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the nation’s capital Tehran.
Irani hasn’t given up hope. “Despite the pressure and difficulties in prison, I am pleased to share, what is like a fountain, my Christian joy with you in the new Christmas days to come,” he wrote.
That is music to the ears of a young Bangladeshi evangelist, who says he was forced to marry a Muslim woman and pressured to return to Islam.
Last week Mark Huda Junayed appeared in front of a Dhaka court for allegedly mistreating his wife.
He said Saturday, December 22, that the bride’s family claims he “tortured” her because she refused to handover 200,000 Bangladeshi takas ($2,500) for the traditional dowry.
However he denies the charges saying the real reason is that they are angry he ran away from her, just as Joseph in the Bible when a woman wanted to sleep with him. “Her family is angry because I don’t want to stay with her and plan a divorce. She is 40, but I am just 20. I don’t want to marry yet,” he said.
Under the country’s civil laws he is a minor as the legal age of consent and minimum age for marriage is 21 for men and 18 for women.
His case underscored international concerns over reported crackdown on Christians and forced marriages in Bangladesh.
Despite the difficulties, Junayed says he remains faithful to his new found faith in Christ.
I accepted Jesus Christ in 2010″, turning away from Islam, the young man said.
“Nobody forced me to become a disciple of Christ…I just discovered peace,love and repenting change in the Bible.”
That’s something worth to suffer for, he said.
(With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Paul Jongas in Nigeria, Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center and additional reporting from the United States and Asia).
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