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Egyptian Village Tensions Worsen Towards Christians

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Egypt – Following a mob attack by Islamic extremists against Egyptian Christians in the village of Barsha on November 25th, local Muslims are calling for a commercial boycott against Christians. On November 29th, extremists again attacked the properties of local Christians. This was the same day when a reconciliation meeting was scheduled, but it was cancelled because of this latest violence.

This latest series of tension was sparked after a Christian man allegedly posted a comment on Facebook that was viewed as insulting to Islam. Reports indicate that hundreds of local Muslims responded by attacking the homes and properties of Christians. This included an attempt to attack the church of Abou Sefin. Police have subsequently arrested both Christians and Muslims.

It is common in Egypt for entire Christian communities to be punished for the perceived wrongs of one. Blasphemy is illegal in Egypt, and social media is the common thread uniting most blasphemy cases within the past year. While police often deploy to contain the mob violence, it is Christians who pay the heftiest price. Egypt must not only protect free speech and freedom of conscience, but also the authorities must not re-victimize the victims by caving to the demands of their aggressors.
Sources:persecution

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Another State Government in India Considers Enacting New Anti-Conversion Law

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India – According to the Times of India, the state government of Gujarat is considering following the leads of two other BJP-led states in introducing a new anti-conversion law. The state government claims it is exploring the idea of introducing a stricter anti-conversion law to thwart ‘love jihad’.

Since 2003, Gujarat has been among a handful of states that have enacted an anti-conversion law. According to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, religious conversions done through force, allurement, or by fraudulent means are illegal and criminalized.

Several departments in the Gujarat government have been asked to look into the legality of the new anti-conversion law and how it will affect the 2003 Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act.

“Our existing law has a provision to act against a person who indulges in forced conversion in the name of love or marriage,” government sources told the Times of India. “However, the state government has been seeking feedback from elected legislators as well as groups from society on whether there ought to be stricter provisions to contain ‘love jihad’.”

Recently, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh enacted anti-conversion ordinances. Both state governments, led by the BJP, claim the ordinances were enacted to combat the issue of ‘love jihad’ and other fraudulent religious conversions.

Radical Hindu nationalists use the specter of mass religious conversions to Christianity and Islam as justification to pass laws limiting religious freedom. According to these nationalists, Indian Christians and Muslims are accused of converting poor Hindus to Christianity and Islam in mass by fraudulent means.

In regards to Christianity, India’s own population data does not support this conspiracy. In 1951, the first census after independence, Christians made up 2.3% of India’s population. According to the 2011 census, the most recent census data available, Christians still make up 2.3% of the population.

In states where similar anti-conversion laws are currently enacted, including Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttrakhand, they are widely abused. Radical nationalists falsely accuse Christians of forcefully converting individuals to Christianity to justify harassment and assault. Local police often overlook violence perpetrated against Christians due to false accusations of forced conversion.

To date, no individual has been convicted of forced conversions in India. This is in spite of the fact that some of the anti-conversion laws have been on the books since 1967.
Sources:persecution

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UAE suspends visa-free travel agreement with Israel until July

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The United Arab Emirates has suspended an agreement to inaugurate visa-free travel for Israelis to the Gulf country until July 1, citing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.

Until then, Israeli citizens seeking to travel to the UAE will need to obtain a visa, as will UAE citizens seeking to travel to Israel, the ministry said on Monday. The UAE has taken a similar step regarding travel from most European countries, as well as India and Pakistan, the Israeli ministry said.

Israel is in its third lockdown and discussing the possibility of extending it beyond Jan. 21 as the number of new cases remains high.

The UAE ratified the agreement on visa-free travel with Israel last week and it was set to go into effect 30 days from then. The agreement follows a normalization accord between the countries signed in September.

The announcement of the suspension comes a day after Israel’s cabinet voted to require all people returning from the UAE and Brazil to quarantine in government-run hotels. A similar decision made previously regarding travelers returning from South Africa and Zambia was extended for 10 days.

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