Somalia– According to Middle East Concern, Somaliland police announced at a press conference the arrest of a Christian couple on October 5. According to the police, the couple was arrested for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity.”
An anonymous tip alerted police to the couple’s alleged “suspicious activity,” after which police arrested the couple on September 21. During the press conference, a police colonel encouraged more citizens to report religious activity or evangelists spreading the Gospel.
The colonel threatened, “Whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region, should be fully aware that they won’t escape the hand of the law enforcement officers and that the spread of Christianity will not be allowed and is considered blasphemy.”
As the couple awaits trial, their story has sparked fear among local Somalian Christian communities, with many fleeing future possible persecution.
Chinese Government Demolished Swedish Missionaries’ Gravestones
China– The Shanxi government destroyed more than 20 Swedish missionaries’ gravestones in their designated cemetery on September 12. An adjoining house for visitors was demolished as well.
The Swedish missionary cemetery in Xiezhou town, administered by the Yanhu district of Yuncheng, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi, is the resting place for many of the missionaries sent by the Swedish Mission in China (Svenska Missionen i Kina (SMK)) in the early 1900s.
According to Bitter Winter, SMK missionaries’ charitable work building schools and hospitals, free of charge for locals, played an important role in the areas’ development and led numerous to Christianity.
“Swedish missionaries bought a plot in Yuncheng’s Xiezhou town cemetery for themselves,” an elderly Christian from Yuncheng told Bitter Winter. “This meant that they devoted their hearts, souls, and entire lives to China.”
Earlier this year, a local house church, the Church of Christ’s Family (CCF), contacted the offspring of one of the deceased missionaries and made 20 gravestones for the Swedish servants, in remembrance of their work and contribution. A house nearby was renovated to show the history of SMK and the missionaries’ footprints.
All the efforts put to honor these missionaries were nullified on September 12, as the Yanhu district government dispatched over 100 special police and public security officers to block the street leading to the cemetery. Those who tried to document this demolition were threatened and told to leave immediately, as an aerial drone hovered above them.
About two hours later, under the charge of “illegal constructions,” three excavators were brought in to desecrate the Swedish missionaries’ gravestones and the adjoining house. To conceal the demolition, the local authorities planted vegetation atop the ruins overnight.
Residents nearby the site and CCF leaders were removed in advance and banned from using their cell phones to report the incident. CCF is also now placed under surveillance for contacting the late Swedish missionary’s family.
The Chinese Communist Party’s attitude towards missionaries in China is becoming like that of North Korea, where it only wants to wipe out their contribution and stigmatize their work.
Pope Francis endorses same-sex civil unions for the first time as pontiff
Pope Francis became the first pontiff to endorse same-sex civil unions on Wednesday, sparking cheers from gay Catholics and demands for clarification from conservatives given the Vatican’s official teaching on the issue.
The papal thumbs-up to same-sex civil unions came midway through the feature-length documentary ‘Francesco’ that had its debut screening at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.
The film, which includes fresh interviews with the pontiff, looks into the issues that mean the most to Pope Francis, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.
“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God,” Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”
ILGA Europe, an association that promotes the interests of LGBTI people, gave the pontiff’s words a cautious welcome.
“In the context where there is so much polarisation and scapegoating of LGBTI people, often endorsed and stoked by religious leaders, Pope Francis’ statement on same-sex unions is to be welcomed and should be carefully listened to,” the organisation said on Twitter. “We will monitor closely to see in how far the statement will be picked up by the churches and will lead to real change for LGBTI people and their families.”
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit who has sought to build bridges with gays in the church, praised the comments as “a major step forward in the church’s support for LGBT people.”
“The pope’s speaking positively about civil unions also sends a strong message to places where the church has opposed such laws,” Martin said in a statement.
However, US conservative Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, called for clarification. “The pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the church about same-sex unions,” he said in a statement. “The church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”
Catholic teaching holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” A 2003 document from the Vatican’s doctrine office stated the church’s respect for gays “cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”
Doing so, the Vatican reasoned, would not only condone “deviant behavior,” but create an equivalence to marriage, which the church holds is an indissoluble union between man and woman.
That document was signed by the then-prefect of the office, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI and Francis’ predecessor.
While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.
Director Evgeny Afineevsky had remarkable access to cardinals, the Vatican television archives and the pope himself. He said he negotiated his way in through persistence, and deliveries of Argentine mate tea and Alfajores cookies that he got to the pope via some well-connected Argentines in Rome.
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