Sri Lanka Muslims fear backlash after Easter Sunday attacks

Muslims in Colombo fear a backlash after the Easter Sunday attacks which killed more than 350 people. Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million, of which the majority are Sinhalese-speaking Buddhists. Muslims account for 10 percent of the population and are the second largest minority after Hindus. Just over six percent are Christians.

DISTURBING: Bloody aftermath at St. Anthony’s Church, where one of 6 blasts struck in Sri Lanka

Six explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with at least 140 killed and hundreds more injured.

Footage from Colombo’s St. Anthony church shows shattered glass and people lying on the ground. READ MORE: https://on.rt.com/9sq1

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Sri Lanka blasts: People gather outside Colombo hospital demanding answers about their relatives

Six explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with more than 40 killed & hundreds injured, local authorities confirmed. READ MORE: https://on.rt.com/9sq1

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GONZO: Street poets and beignets in Nola (E8)

GONZO heads into the home of fracking, Denton, Texas, to chat to Dr. Adam Briggle, author of ‘A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking’. The idea of field philosophy is to take ideas about ethics and justice and bring it to the real world. Fracking is a justice issue and both the politics and the economics of the alleged bonanza turned out to be a big dud and a land use planning nightmare. They talk about the philosophy of hubris and narcissism and find that fracking is about the lesson of Frankenstein – we create something without considering the wider ramifications and without plans to deal with the out of control nature of our inventions. Denton voted to ban fracking but the state government then intervened with legislation to prevent citizens from having the democratic right of local self-determination on such matters related to Big Oil. We are waiting for a tech fix but fracking was a tech fix to declining oil reserves. Max and Dr. Briggle ride their bike off into the distance with plans to go form the church of no fracking.

Max and Stacy leave Texas on the way to New Orleans while discussing the frackers versus ranchers battle brewing in Texas as each vie for limited water resources. In Nola, they discuss the aftermath of about Hurricane Katrina which Obama’s education secretary considered the best thing to ever happen to public education in America as it opened up an entire city to the charter school movement which, in turn, opened the city up to privatisation and gentrification. They also discuss the legacy of Huey Long and how we now dismantle public infrastructure rather than build it. Blumenthal mentions ‘Cancer Alley’ in one of the first town of freed persons where cancer rates now are so high due to industrial pollution. They also ask, “How did we end up with Trump?” And the role of John Hagee and the evangelical Christians in putting him in power in order to get them the Supreme Court, which they now effectively own. Finally, Stacy and the two Maxes eat beignets, talk about the swamp expanding, the legacy of Bourdain and then talk to some street poets who compose a poem for GONZO.

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Darwin v Christians: Play about English naturalist dropped after parents complain

The English school has found itself in the spotlight after it decided to drop a play about Charles Darwin following complaints from Christian parents.

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People queue for tickets for papal mass ahead of historic visit

Christians queue outside the St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Abu Dhabi for tickets to the papal mass ahead of Pope Francis’ historic three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, the first by a pope to the Arabian peninsula.

Xmas trees gifted to animals at Moscow zoo

Because Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas two weeks after December 25, Russians usually keep their decorations around a bit longer than Western Europeans. But now, as these festivities come to a close, people in Moscow are hurrying to get rid of their trees. With some being gifted to the elephants, monkeys, bears and other animals of Moscow zoo, that enjoy playing with or simply eating them.

Patriarch Kirill delivers Orthodox Christmas message

Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, delivers Christmas message to all Orthodox Christians.

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Christians celebrate Epiphany with swim in Istanbul

The Patriarch of Constantinople celebrates the Epiphany Mass before blessing the waters of the Golden Horn with a cross that young Greek Orthodox Christians recovered by diving into the icy water. The winner this year is Mihalis Vosnakiris.

In South-East Turkey, all Christians pray under one roof

In Diyarbakir, the main Kurdish city of South-East Turkey, there were once 46 churches. But today, only one remains open. The others are either destroyed or were closed by the government during clashes between Turkish army and the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party, the PKK. Chaldeans, Armenians, Assyrians and even some Muslims, all come together to celebrate Christmas mass in the Holy Virgin Mary church.

China Cracking Down on Christians

(7 Aug 2018) Amid the atheist ruling Communist Party’s ambitious new effort to dictate — and in some cases displace — the practice of faith in China, Christians have seen their churches raided, their Bibles confiscated and their pastors arrested. (Aug. 7)

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Coptic Christians battle prejudice in Egyptian football

Youth members of “Je Suis” football academy, an initiative to protect the rights of Christians in sport, sit together on a pitch in the country’s second city of Alexandria. Under the name “Je Suis” in French, or “I am”, the academy’s founder Mina Bendary started the initiative after being told by football club officials to use a different name to conceal his religion if he was to play professionally in the majority-Muslim country.

This Is Why Evangelical Christians Love Israel (VICE on HBO, Full Segment)

Thomas Morton joined a group of born again Christians as they toured the Holy Land and found out the real reason why they support Israel. This is the episode from Season 2 of VICE on HBO.

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Germany Accuses Muslim Migrants Of Converting To Christianity To Get Asylum (HBO)

Salman Barbari was born in Iran to a strict Muslim family from Afghanistan. Last month he got baptized and became a Christian at Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin. The potential consequences for his future and safety are vast.
Under Islamic law, Barbari could be sent to jail in Iran for converting to Christianity. In Afghanistan, he could be put to death. But his conversion could also allow Barbari to stay in Germany. He is applying for asylum here, and under German law migrants like himself can’t be deported if they face persecution at home.
Barbari told VICE News his conversion is sincere. “I didn’t get baptized to get asylum or anything like that.”
The German government may not believe him. It has rejected more than 90 percent of recent asylum applications submitted by members of Trinity Lutheran’s congregation.
Pastor Gottfried Martens’ ministry has focused on migrants since 2015. Today, 1400 of his 1600 congregants are Iranian and Afghan. Martens is furious that the German government is getting ready to deport both long-time Christians and recent converts like Barbari, who have completed three-month-long baptism classes at Trinity Lutheran as well as baptism exams.
“The state is a kind of secular version of the Holy Inquisition,” Martens told VICE News, “because the state says we can look into the heart of those people and can say who is the true Christian and who is not.”
The rejections themselves come in the form letters filled with template text blocks that often question the authenticity of of a convert’s beliefs. The fact that the decisions are based on short interviews conducted by administrators who have no religious background is particularly frustrating to Martens.
“I think a secular state is not able or not allowed to make such judgments about the faith of people.”
The increase in rejections may seem surprising given who is running the German government. Chancellor Angela Merkel is both the head of the Christian Democratic party and the daughter of Lutheran pastor. But she also faced significant backlash against her migrant-friendly policies in the months leading up to Germany’s national elections last year. During that time, Germany processed more asylum applications than all other EU countries combined. Since then asylum approvals have dropped.
Andrea Lindholz, a member of the governing Christian Social Union, says rejections are not politically motivated.
“Different aspects play a role. How did the person live his life in his country? How did he practice his faith there? Why did he decide to convert and how is he living his faith day to day?” Lindholz told VICE News. “In that context the pastor can only be one consideration and not the only one.”
Lindholz emphasized that simply converting is not enough to receive asylum, even if converts could face repercussions in their home countries.
“I don’t want to rule out that wrong decisions were made, but there is the possibility” of appealing rejections in court, she said. “It is a tough topic, and you will never find a satisfying solution.”

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‘Attack against Christians’: Jerusalem church closes to protest Israeli tax plans

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, shut down indefinitely on Sunday in protest against a new Israeli tax policy and draft law on land expropriation.

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Church at Jerusalem’s holiest site for Christians remains closed

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre built at what many consider the holiest site in Christianity remained closed for a second day to protest Israeli tax measures and a proposed property law, leaving disappointed pilgrims locked outside.

Orthodox Christians mark Epiphany along Jordan River

Thousands of Christian Orthodox pilgrims join a procession and hold baptisms along the Jordan River during Epiphany celebrations at the Qasr al-Yahud baptismal site near the West Bank city of Jericho – where according to the gospels Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist.

Serbians burn log branches in celebration of Orthodox Christmas

Serbian Orthodox Christians gathered at St Sava Church in Belgrade on Saturday to celebrate Christmas Eve by burning the yule log branches. The young tree symbolises Christ and his entry to the world. Serbian Patriarch Irinej followed the centuries-old tradition of burning of the oak branches by offered holiday greetings.

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What The US Needs To Do To Prevent A New ISIS in Iraq

Shelly Culbertson, senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, explains the steps that the US can take in leading the stabilization effort in Iraq to prevent the rise of a new ISIS. Following is a transcript of the video.

Shelly Culbertson: I’m Shelly Culbertson, I’m a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and I study issues in the Middle East related to refugees, stabilization, and public sector development.

We’ve concluded that unless a series of urgent steps take place over the coming year to provide some of the prerequisites for Iraq to get back on a path to stability, violence could resume once again in a matter of months.

Given all of the American lives that we’ve lost, and the many, many Iraqi lives that have been lost, it’s very much in US national interest to take a leading role in the stabilization of Mosul and other parts of Iraq as well as in the military victory.

The US has actually taken a very large role in the humanitarian effort. The US is the largest donor to humanitarian assistance and so its ongoing and sustained and additional support is really needed in order to prevent that to happen.

Mosul will require a number of steps in order to rebuild it and to set it back on a path to prosperity. I think many of the most important steps that are required will happen during the first year. Really providing a lot of the prerequisites so that it can rebuild and get on a path to growth again.

So one of those is figuring out how to deal with the displaced people that are from Mosul. So about 800 thousand people are still living displaced out of Mosul. So working on policies and plans to help them get back home. But for them to be able to come back home, they have to be able to go home and find intact homes, health, education, and so forth that are there.

One big obstacle to them going home is the level of explosive hazards that ISIS left. ISIS left mines, booby traps, etcetera really on an industrial scale. They did this as a tactic to keep civilians from coming back home. So they mined hospitals, pharmacies, schools, water lines, the level of baby cribs. A really big first step in order to make all of this happen is significant investment in demining. Not just in public utilities and services, but also in housing.

A next important step is making sure that the city is secure. In order to secure Mosul and prevent ISIS from moving right back in, the city requires about 60 thousand troops just to maintain the status quo. And unfortunately there’s a risk that because of the ongoing fight against ISIS elsewhere that those troops could be drawn off.

Mosul also needs about 25 thousand trained police, and to date about 15 thousand have been hired and trained. And while the coalition is working on training other police, police who are important to keep the peace in the streets, prevent reprisals, prevent looting, that training isn’t fast enough, so the situation is pretty urgent.

Mosul also requires investment in its public services. Rebuilding some of the water, electricity, sewage lines. That’s under way. Schools are starting to open. But many of these things need a bit of a long-term plan. Both to build infrastructure, get the people back — the staff, the doctors, the nurses, the teachers — and to help do some of the indoctrination that happened during that time.

And finally, some bigger issues regarding governance and reconciliation will need to be addressed. Many communities in Ninawa Province, of which Mosul is the capital, just don’t trust each other any more. There’s a lot of trauma between the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Christians, the Yazidis, the Turkmen and so forth. And so there are some important steps that need to happen in terms of local reconciliation in addition to working with Baghdad on a broader national plan for reconciliation, particularly in a roadmap among the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Kurds, and others.

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