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Sudan opens path toward religious freedom

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In what appears to be a promising positive change, Sudan’s transitional government and a rebel group that fought against the Muslim-majority country’s longtime authoritarian leader Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted last year, have agreed to form an independent national commission for religious freedom.

As part of the latest round of negotiations between Sudan’s transitional government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (Agar) under the Juba Peace Process, an agreement was reached “to establish a commission for religious freedom to address all issues relating to religious freedom in order to affirm the principle of peaceful coexistence in the country,” the Transitional Sovereign Council said on its Facebook page.

The SPLM-N armed group is based in Sudan’s predominantly Christian South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which fought against al-Bashir.

“Today we have agreed to establish the religious freedom commission because the Two Areas have a considerable number of Sudanese Christians, so this is an important issue that has been resolved,” the armed group’s Deputy Leader and chief negotiator Yasir Arman was quoted as saying by the U.K.-based group Christianity Solidarity Worldwide.

The two parties have also agreed to create a Ministry for Peace and Human Rights.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has acknowledged improvements in the country’s religious and political atmosphere.

After a visit to that country in February, the commission’s chair, Tony Perkins, expressed optimism.

“We are grateful to Prime Minister Hamdok and other members of the country’s bold transitional leadership who met with USCIRF to convey their explicit desire to bring a new era of openness and inclusivity to their country that suffered for 30 years under brutal and autocratic religious repression,” he said, according to Crux.

“At the same time, we understand that the country’s challenges are deeply-rooted, and we urge the leadership to move quickly to turn that optimism into tangible and meaningful reforms for all people across Sudan, such as acting to formally repeal Article 126 of the 1991 penal code, which outlaws apostasy,” he added.

Since 2010 and the separation of South Sudan, the persecution of Christians had “intensified with church land being confiscated by the state, church leaders facing trial for national security crimes and latterly misdemeanors,” CSW’s Kiri Kankhwende was quoted as saying. “General harassment of the Christian community, human rights defenders working on FoRB by the intelligence service; harassment of women and interference with the administration of churches and confiscation of private land owned by Christian businessmen.”

Nasreldin Mofreh, Sudan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, signed an order in March requiring the dissolution of church councils that international advocates said legitimized the former government’s confiscation of church properties.

“We are pleased by the minister’s decree, given the role these illegitimate church councils played in the former regime’s persecution of Christians and the obstacles they continued to present to churches’ ability to represent their own interests to the government,” Perkins said in a statement.

Prime Minister Hamdok and other transitional government officials met with USCIRF in Washington, D.C., during a visit last December — the first time in three decades that Sudanese leaders had visited Washington, D.C.

The officials also shared at the time how they planned to expand religious freedom in a country that is ranked as the seventh-worst in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

Last month, Sudan’s new leaders also outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation, The New York Times reported. Nearly 90% of Sudanese women have been subjected to the practice, which involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia.

Sources: Christian Post

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ഭൂകമ്പം ഫിജിയെ പിടിച്ചുകുലുക്കി, റിക്ടർ സ്കെയിലിൽ 6.0 രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയ ഭൂചലനം

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സുവ: ദ്വീപ് രാജ്യമായ ഫിജിയിൽ ഭൂചലനം. റിക്ടർ സ്‌കെയിലിൽ 6.0 തീവ്രത രേഖപ്പെടുത്തിയ ഭൂചലനത്തിൽ നാശനഷ്ടങ്ങൾ ഉണ്ടായതായി റിപ്പോർട്ടില്ല. 398 കിലോമീറ്റർ ആഴത്തിൽ പ്രകമ്പനം അനുഭവപ്പെട്ടതായി യുഎസ് ഭൗമശാസ്ത്ര കേന്ദ്രം അറിയിച്ചു. ലെവൂക്ക നഗരത്തിന് 340 കിലോമീറ്റർ കിഴക്ക് മാറിയായിരുന്നു പ്രകമ്പനം. പ്രാദേശിക സമയം രാവിലെ 11.35 ഓടെയായിരുന്നു ഭൂചലനം അനുഭവപ്പെട്ടത്. സുനാമി മുന്നറിയിപ്പുകളൊന്നും നൽകിയിട്ടില്ലെന്ന് അധികൃതർ അറിയിച്ചു. ഭൂചലനം ഉണ്ടായ വിവരം ജർമ്മൻ ജിയോസയൻസ് റിസർച്ച് സെന്ററും സ്ഥിരീകരിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.

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Archaeologists discover rare 2,000-y-o oil lamp in Jerusalem’s City of David on Pilgrimage Road

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The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a rare oil lamp, with its wick still preserved, from under the foundation of a building erected on Jerusalem’s famed Pilgrimage Road soon after the destruction of the Second Temple almost 2,000 years ago.

The IAA researchers believe the bronze lamp, shaped like a grotesque face cut in half and estimated to be from the late first century or the early second century CE, was put in the foundation of the building in Jerusalem’s City of David for good fortune, The Times of Israel reported.

“This half of a lamp, and in fact half a face, which was discovered in the City of David, is a very rare object, with only a few discovered in the whole world, and is the first of its kind to be discovered in Jerusalem,” Yuval Baruch of the IAA was quoted as saying.

“It is possible that the importance of the building, and the need to bless its activity with luck by burying a foundation deposit, was due to its proximity to the Siloam Pool, which was also used in the Roman period as the central source of water within the city,” IAA archaeologist Ari Levy told The Jerusalem Post.

Speaking to Haaretz, Levy explained, “Foundation deposits, in general, go back to the dim reaches of antiquity. It was accepted in construction in general, to bring luck and symbolic defense of the building — and to cast fear and awe on attackers. Its significance was highly symbolic, not functional.”

Haaretz said the lamp featured a goaty male half-face complete with (half a) satyr’s beard and a horned forehead.

Only one other such lamp has ever been found in an archaeological context — and that was in Budapest, according to Levy.

Experts believe that Pilgrimage Road, where the building had been erected, is the path ancient Jews walked to reach the Temple Mount three times a year — in the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

“The street was built during the period of Governor Pontius Pilates,” Levy said. “It was inaugurated around the year 30 CE and it was used for about 40 years until the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.”

Baruch added: “Decorated bronze oil lamps were discovered throughout the Roman Empire. For the most part, such oil lamps stood on stylish candelabras or were hung on a chain. Collections around the world contain thousands of these bronze lamps, many of which were made in intricate shapes, indicating the artistic freedom that Roman metal artists possessed.”
Sources:Christian Post

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