BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)-- Iraqi Christians who returned to their ancient city after a wave of violence and intimidation were in shock Friday, November 14, after discovering that two sisters were stabbed to death when attackers broke into their home, several Christian sources said.
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)-- Authorities in northern Iraq have released a 16-year-old Christian girl who was serving a 3 1/2 years jail sentence for killing her uncle after he attacked her, observers of the case confirmed Wednesday, November 12.
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- The son of executed Christian pastor Hossein Soodmand was still awaiting his trial in Iran for "promoting anti-government propaganda" Wednesday, November 12, some three weeks after being released on bail. Ramtin Soodmand, pastor of the Evangelical Church of Iran in the city of Mashhad, was freed October 22 after his family reportedly managed to raise about $22,000 bail money, ending two months of imprisonment. Soodmand was detained by Iranian security forces on August 21, originally on charges of "proselytizing," Christians with close knowledge about the procedures said. The charges were later changed to anti-government activities. His defense team has strongly denied the accusations, but concerns remain that he could still face years of imprisonment and even the death penalty. â€œThe real reason for his arrest is the fact that he is a Muslim convert who is involved in Christian ministry,â€? said the well-informed Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN). The release of Soodmand came shortly after Shroder Ashur, an Assyrian Christian minister, was released after being charged with the "propagation of Christianity," said FCNN, which has close contacts with prosecuted Christians in Iran. Ashur was freed in the city of Urumieh on October 5, according to FCNN investigators. CONCERNS REMAINYet, Christians said they remain concerned over the plight over these and other Christians. Recently the Iranian parliament voted in favour of a draft bill, entitled "Islamic Penal Code", which would codify the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith. Women would get life imprisonment. The majority in favour of the new law was reportedly overwhelming: 196 votes for, with just seven against.Ramtin Soodmand's sister told British media she was "terribly anxious" about him. "Even though my brother is not an apostate, because he has never been a Muslim â€“ my father raised us all as Christians â€“ I don't think he is Rashin Soodmansafe," said 29-year-old Rashin Soodman, who now lives in London. "They assume that if you are Iranian, you must be Muslim," she told The Telegraph newspaper. Her brother's situation has ominous echoes of her father's fate. Rashin was 14 when her father, who was pastor of the Assemblies of God Church of Mashhad, was arrested. "He was held in prison for one month," she said. "Then the religious police released him without explanation and without apology. We were overjoyed. We thought his ordeal was over."CHRISTIAN FAITHBut six months later, the police came back and took Hossein Soodmand away again, she said. This time, they offered her father a choice: he could denounce his Christian faith, and the church in which he was a pastor â€“ or he would be killed. "Of course, my father refused to give up his faith," Rashid recalled. "He could not renounce his God. His belief in Christ was his life â€“ it was his deepest conviction." Two weeks later, he was taken by guards to the prison gallows and hanged.His death has been linked to attempts by Iran's rulers to use the 1979 revolution to turn Iran into an Islamic state, and to abolish the secular laws of the Shah. In the 18 years since Hossein Soodmand's execution, there have been no reports of judicially sanctioned killings of apostates in Iran, although there have been many reports of disappearances and even murders, Christian groups said.Rashin Soodmand eventually managed to leave Iran and, living in London, is now married to a fellow Christian from Iran who successfully applied for asylum in Germany. But she fears for her brother's future. "We just don't know what will happen to him. We only know that if they want to kill him, they will," she said. END (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
JERUSALEM/BERLIN (BosNewsLife)-- From Jerusalem to Berlin, people on Sunday, November 9, commemorated the 70th anniversary of 'Kristallnacht,' a night that became the prelude to the Holocaust, in which some six million Jews perished. International diplomats were among those attending a ceremony in Israel as it marked the 'Kristallnacht, the Nazi-inspired riots in which hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish-owned businesses were ransacked in Germany and Austria. "They robbed everything out of the store and the synagogue was burning," recalled Holocaust survivor, Gerhard Mashkovski.At least 91 Jews were killed in the violence whipped up by Nazi stormtroopers and close to 30,000 Jews were arrested in the two-day pogrom and sent to concentration camps. Holocaust survivors and their descendants, and the German and Austrian ambassadors to Israel attended a solemn ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial here in Jerusalem on Sunday, November 9.Austrian Ambassador, Michael Rendi said it was important that Austria took over this year the presidency in the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, on Holocaust remembrance, on research. "I think it says and it shows that we have learned a very painful lesson. And the knowledge that is given on to the next generations is the key," he said.Kristallnacht, which means "Night of the Broken Glass," is seen as the beginning of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II. On Sunday, November 9, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel "will never forgive or forget" the atrocities of Adolf Hitler's Germany. EUROPE REMEMBERS Events were also held in Germany itself and other European nations to remember the Kristallnacht.In Nazi Germany persecution of the Jewish population had begun long before Kirstallnacht. After Hitler had come to power, laws were passed placing restrictions on Jews, on where they could work, on who they could marry and where they could receive medical help.But on the night of November 9, 1938 the anti-semitism turned physical, Jewish people recalled. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was therefore crucial to "fight with determination" against racism and anti-Semitism. "Indifference is the first step toward endangering essential values," Merkel said during a speech at Germany'a largest synagogue in Berlin's Rykestrasse. "Xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism must never be given an opportunity in Europe again."Kristallnacht, often viewed as the first major act that ultimately led to the Holocaust, was met with indifference by many Germans in 1938, Merkel noted on Sunday, November 9."There was no storm of protest against the Nazis, but silence, shrugged shoulders and people looking away -- from individual citizens to large parts of the church. We cannot be silent, we cannot be indifferent, when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated and rabbis are insulted on the street," she said at the ceremony, attended by Jewish representatives and diplomats. LINGERING PAIN German-born Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in Vatican City Sunday, November 9, voiced his lingering pain over the Kristallnacht. "Still today I feel pain over what happened in those tragic events, whose memory must serve to ensure such horrors are never repeated and that we strive, on every level, against all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination.""I invite people to pray for the victims of that night and to join me in expressing profound solidarity with the Jewish world," the pontiff told crowds at the Vatican after his regular Sunday Angelus address.Pope Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria in 1927, was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teenager, though both his parents opposed the Nazis. Earlier this year the pontiff spoke in New York about his teenage years being "marred by a sinister regime," Reuters news agency reported.The pope is reportedly being lobbied by Holocaust survivors and their descendants to halt the process of making his wartime predecessor Pius XII a saint. Some Jews accuse Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to help save many Jews from certain death. END (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).