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200 communist officials demolish church, beat Christians

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A Christian man was arrested and at least two women were injured in China’s Henan province after 200 communist officials stormed into Sunzhuang Church, which is part of a network of government-run churches, and brought it down using cranes and heavy-duty machinery.

The officials from the Zhengzhou High-Tech District’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau did not show any legal documents when they demolished the church on June 12, the U.S.-based group China Aid said in a statement this week.

They threw the church’s furniture and other belongings out of the building before razing it, reported China Aid, which helps those who are persecuted by the Communist Party in China.

A Christian woman who tried to resist the officials lost consciousness after being pushed to the ground. She and another female member of the church who was beaten had to be hospitalized, the group said, and a male church attendee was taken into custody.

Sunzhuang Church joined the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in June 2012, when the communist government allowed it to build a new church building. After the building had been constructed in June 2013, the church received eviction and demolition notices from the Sunzhuang village authorities.

China Aid said the 2013 decision to demolish the church was made without the villagers’ consent and authorities were barred from carrying out the demolition at the time. Instead, vehicles owned by Henan province threw tons of dirt and rocks at the church’s doorway. Officials also cut off electricity and water to the church.

The Italian-based magazine Bitter Winter, a publication produced by the Center for Studies on New Religion which covers human rights issues in China, reported earlier this month that authorities removed crosses from more than 250 state-sanctioned churches in Anhui province between January and April.

“All Christian symbols are ordered to be removed as part of the government’s crackdown campaign,” a provincial employee from Ma’anshan city was quoted as saying.

China’s crackdown on religion and religious minorities has drawn scrutiny from international actors such as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, rights groups, and the U.S. State Department.

2020 annual report, USCIRF noted that not only have authorities removed crosses from churches across the nation, but they have also banned youth age 18 and younger from participating in religious services.

Reports have also indicated that authorities have required that some churches remove pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary inside of their buildings and replace them with images of President Xi Jinping.

On Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.

Gina Goh, a regional manager for International Christian Concern in Southeast Asia, recently said that China had resumed its crackdown on Christianity after the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic had reduced.

“In recent weeks, we have seen an increased number of church demolitions and cross removals on state-sanctioned churches across China, as house church gatherings continue to face interruption and harassment. It is deplorable that the local authorities not only conducted this raid without proper procedure but deployed excessive use of force against church members and bystanders,” she said.
Sources:Christian Post

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Texas resumes executions after 5-month delay due to coronavirus pandemic

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Texas is set to move forward with the execution of an inmate Wednesday, its first since a five-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Billy Wardlow, 45, was convicted of capital murder after he fatally shot an 82-year-old man, Carl Cole, in 1993 during a robbery at Cole’s home.

Wardlow was 18 at the time. The minimum age a person can receive the death penalty in Texas is 17 years old.

Wardlow’s attorney, Richard Burr, told ABC News Wednesday that there are three pending petitions in the Supreme Court that could possibly result in a stay of execution.

He called those petitions “the most serious and hopeful.”

One petition, which has been pending since June 10, has to do with the question of predicting future dangers, according to Burr.

In Texas, in order to be sentenced to death, a person has to be deemed someone who is likely to be dangerous in the future.

“You can scientifically know now it was impossible to predict future dangers of an 18-year-old because their brains are still not fully formed,” Burr said.

Prosecutors argued that society has long used the age of 18 as the point where it draws the line for many distinctions between childhood and adulthood, according to the Associated Press.

“Wardlow senselessly executed elderly Carl Cole to steal his truck, something that could have been taken without violence because the keys were in it,” according to a petition filed with the Supreme Court by the Texas attorney general’s office, the AP reported.

The two other petitions involve what Burr described as ineffective counsel and an incorrect waiving of another appeal in state and federal court.

Burr said he has also requested with the Texas Supreme Court to withdraw the execution order because of the risk amid the pandemic and the “huge rise of COVID-19 cases in Texas.”

A judge moved Wardlow’s execution date from April 29 to July 8 because of the pandemic. Six executions scheduled in Texas for earlier this year were postponed by the courts because of the outbreak.

Texas is among the states that have seen an increase in coronavirus cases, the daily rate of positivity, hospitalizations and deaths, according to an ABC News analysis.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a request to delay Wardlow’s execution or commute his sentence to life in prison on Monday, Burr said.

Wardlow’s execution time is set for 6 p.m. CST, but can occur any time after that until midnight, according to Robert C. Hurst, a spokesman at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Jason Clark, chief of staff at the state’s Department of Criminal Justice, told ABC News the agency can “carry out the process safely for those participating and witnessing the execution.”

Witnesses will have their temperature taken, will be provided with a mask and be spaced out, Clark said. No more than five witnesses are allowed for the inmate and victim each, a limit that predates the pandemic.

If carried out, it will be Texas’ third execution of the year. The two others took place in Jan. 15 and Feb. 6.

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Ivory Coast Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly Dies After Cabinet Meeting

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Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister and the governing party’s candidate for the October presidential election, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, has died just days after returning from two months of medical treatment in France.

The 61-year-old, who had heart surgery in 2012, became unwell during a weekly cabinet meeting and was taken to a hospital where he passed away on Wednesday, President Alassane Ouattara said in a statement read on national television.

“Fellow compatriots, Ivory Coast is mourning. It is with deep pain that I announce to you that Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly has left us,” Ouattara said in a statement read by the presidency’s secretary-general.

Gon Coulibaly had returned to Ivory Coast last Thursday after two months in France to undergo a heart exam and rest.

Gon Coulibaly’s death is likely to set off a scramble within the governing RHDP party to replace him as its candidate in an election that is considered a key test of stability for the world’s top cocoa producer.

Ouattara’s first win in 2010 over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo sparked a brief civil war in which about 3,000 people died, and political tensions have been rising ahead of October’s poll.

Ouattara designated Gon Coulibaly as the RHDP candidate in March after announcing he would not seek a third term.

Gon Coulibaly sought medical care in France in May, saying it was only for a checkup. He was allowed to travel abroad despite Ivory Coast’s airports being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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